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Another weak year in IPS 2005 is shaping up to be another weak year for the Infiniti Pro Series. Only six cars participated in Friday's Menards Infiniti Pro Series test in Homestead. IRL president Brian Barnhart said 12 to 14 should be at next month's test at Phoenix. Remember when CART had solid fields in both Toyota Atlantic and Indy Lights? What happened? The same thing that happened to Indy Car. Tony George came along and created a competing series, split the sport in half and essentially killed it. We can only shake our head in amazement. But we can't only blame Tony. All the engine manufacturers, teams and drivers who broke rank with CART and went to the IRL all have blood on their hands. They all contributed to the demise of the sport. They will now live with the consequences.
Weak dollar may mean more US exports To take advantage of the weak US dollar, U.S. automakers plan to step up European sales of cars built in North America as a way to take advantage of the dollar's weakness against the euro. In the past, U.S. manufacturers have exported a small number of U.S.-built cars to Europe.
Germany's Automobilwoche industry paper said on Monday DaimlerChrysler would launch U.S.-based Dodge as an entry-level brand targeted at young people in Europe next month. It quoted Thomas Hausch, international marketing director for Chrysler, as saying the group's U.S. arm expected to generate "up to 30 percent" of its global sales from Dodge in Europe by 2007. That would be around 30,000 cars at today's levels.
It also quoted General Motors product development chief Bob Lutz as saying the world's biggest carmaker planned to offer GMC brand sport utility vehicles in Europe in one or two years, expanding its range to seven brands. Automobilwoche said GM aimed to sell up to 15,000 GMC vehicles in Europe by 2010 in addition to boosting sales of U.S.-made Chevrolet cars.
The current exchange rate is $1 US dollar = 0.77 Euros. When the Euro was first introduced two years ago it was almost 1 to 1.
Honda planning IRL exit Our connections in Japan tell us that the President of American Honda (Koichi Amemiya?) is very unhappy with the IRL. Apparently he was promised by some very prominent IRL and NASCAR team owner who helped orchestrate their move to the IRL that Champ Car (then CART) would be put out of business and the IRL would have free reign of open wheel racing in the USA. What they didn't plan on was OWRS saving the Champ Car series and still having control of the best road racing venues in North America. Is he mad enough for Honda to follow Toyota right out of the IRL? That's what the rumor mill is saying.....a year or so after Toyota is gone, so too will Honda. We shall, as they, see.......
Toyota to announce IRL pulloutUPDATE Overheard at Daytona during Rolex 24 testing - one high ranking Toyota official expressing his displeasure with the IRL, possibly setting the stage for their announcement to withdraw from the series after Indy. 12/13/04 Sources close to Toyota are saying that the company will announce its withdrawal from the IRL after the 2005 Indy 500. Yes, they will honor their contract through 2006, but they will, like Chevy who announced they are out after 2005, announce their withdrawal from the series before their contract runs out. Expect to hear Toyota's Nextel Cup plans announced around the same time. If this rumor is true, that leaves Honda alone to supply the entire field. We simply don't expect Honda to do that for long because they like competition.
Who will get the second Minardi? This Grandprix.com Article says, The second Minardi is still up for grabs and team boss Paul Stoddart has made no secret of the fact that the drive will go to the man who brings the most money with him to the negotiating table. Stoddart would love to be in a position to run the best driver but he cannot afford to turn away a bigger budget. The good news for Stoddart is that several useful drivers seem to have money to spend. Nicolas Kiesa, who drove for Minardi at the end of 2003, is pulling together all the money he can find while Gianmaria Bruni, although a big disappointment last year, could end up with more cash than anyone else. It seems that Zsolt Baumgartner is not really in the picture and the latest word is that Zsolt is busy trying to do a deal with Jordan, where two seats are available. However the competition is strong with Timo Glock having a big budget behind him and Robert Doornbos the favorite for the other seat. There are other drivers who would like to be under consideration for the drive but have not got the kind of money that is now needed. We hear that a Minardi drive next year will cost around $8m.
Bang Racing closes doors Rumor (Jayski) has it that Bang! Racing is going out of business. Travis Kvapil, now in the #77 Kodak Dodge, was to drive for BANG! in a limited Busch schedule in 2005, and drove in the Truck Series last season for the team.
Minardi not for sale Despite some rumors, Minardi boss Paul Stoddart says his Minardi team is not on the market. The only reason he might change his mind is if a car manufacturer or a "serious, serious person" emerges as a buyer. "As a (backmarker) team owner you have approaches - at least one a month," Stoddart told website crash.net. "I count mine and I'm on number 27 - frankly, most of them don't have the legs to run anywhere. "To be honest, I simply don't want to sell the team. "At the moment I'm hopeful that Eddie will be the next one, if there is going to be another team to be sold. "I think he's made it pretty clear that he wants to sell. "I'm quite happy to take the next three years, the last three years of the Concorde Agreement (under which teams participate in F1) and run them out and see what kind of a deal comes forward," Stoddart said. "Now that's a completely different situation to saying would I sell the team to a manufacturer or a serious, serious person came along who could take the team further and better than I can. "Categorically, yes, my interests are in the long-term health of Minardi, not in any short-term gains." Stoddart said.
Ron might quit McLaren The F1 rumor mill seems to think Ron Dennis might quit McLaren. We reported last October that Mercedes' new chief, Eckhard Cordes, could initiate the German co-owner and carmaker's full takeover of the grand prix team in January 2005. Dennis, with Mansour Ojjeh, still own 60 per cent of Woking-based McLaren. In November, the Englishman admitted that - one day - he'd like to watch a silver-liveried car win a grand prix 'and I've had nothing to do with it.'
GPWC to buy F1? How will the carmaker 'GPWC' group react to Bernie Ecclestone's Ferrari-FIA-FOM 'Concorde' coup? Paul Stoddart, of struggling team Minardi, thinks the diminishing group - now effectively represented only by BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Renault - will start a conversation with an investment bank (or three).
Last month, the banking trio (Bayerische Landesbank, JP Morgan Chase and Lehmann Brothers), known collectively as Speed Investments, won a landmark court ruling against Ecclestone.
As well as owning the majority of the SLEC (F1) commercial business, 'Speed' now have more say in how the sport is run. Paul Stoddart said: ''I think we could see a deal ... for (GPWC) to take over the banks' holding.''
Bernie to issue ultimatum to teams Bernie Ecclestone, in a London airport meeting next week, will issue a 'take it or leave it'-style ultimatum to Ferrari's nine Formula One rivals. The F1 impresario, with more money to offer, wants them to join the scarlet pacesetter in agreeing to sign a new Concorde Agreement to last until 2012. ''We want to have this all over with before ... the first race. Absolutely,'' Bernie, 74, said.
Meanwhile, according to UK's The Times newspaper, Paul Stoddart - on behalf of all non-Ferrari teams - will send a letter to FIA president Max Mosley accusing Ferrari of 'cashing in' on alleged favoritism. Bernie denied the charge. ''The other (teams) didn't know about (the Ferrari deal),'' he admitted to Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport, ''but I'm getting in contact with them. The advantages (of the new deal) are undeniable.''
Why did RCR borrow Hendrick engine? Richard Childress borrowed an engine from the Rick Hendrick team for a few laps at Daytona 500 testing, to see if the problem was engine or aerodynamics. The Hendrick engine provided more speed. Winston-Salem Journal
What appeared to be a simple engine change caused quite a stir in the garage at Daytona. Crew members installed a Hendrick Motorsports engine into the #29 Chevrolet owned by Richard Childress Racing, which has its own engine shop. Childress said the experiment was initiated by General Motors, which supports both teams. Drivers using Hendrick engines have dominated preseason testing, and Childress' teams have struggled. Scott Riggs and Nemechek, using leased Hendrick engines, have been fastest on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. The #29, driven this week by Kerry Earnhardt, who is filling in for Kevin Harvick, was 38th fastest Wednesday. The switch was not completed in time for Earnhardt to run a lap with the Hendrick engine. Atlanta Journal-Constitution
NASCAR and Champ Car TV news Word has it that HD Net will feature full NASCAR and Champ Car race coverage complete with both pre-race and behind-the-scenes reporting in 2005. We already see a plethora of NASCAR programming scheduled for HD Net. Will Champ Car be treated like a 2nd cousin now?
Bulgaria eyes GP race A Dutch delegation traveled to south Bulgaria at the weekend to meet with 'Sliven' town mayor Yordan Lechkov. They talked about Formula One. It's reported, by the local 'Focus' agency, that a consortium based in the Netherlands 'showed interest' in putting up about 200 million euro to rejuvenate an old circuit and make a bid for Bernie Ecclestone's grand prix circus. Elsewhere, mayor Lechkov said the project may hinge on a local military airport being converted to a civil one. Meanwhile, further meetings for the Bulgarian grand prix project are planned, we can reveal.
Foyt to skip road courses? Last year AJ Foyt said his team would skip the IRL road course races when they were announced. Recently the team indicated they would run all the races. So far the team has not made an appearance in Homestead for the road course testing portion and is said to be arriving for the oval test on Saturday. AJ Foyt IV needs all the road course seat time he can get. If the team is a no-show now, we suspect AJ may be holding true to his word.
Champ Car TV commentators We have it on good word that Bob Varsha will not be doing any Champ Car TV broadcasts in 2005. His F1 schedule, especially with qualifying on Sunday mornings, is simply too busy. There is a reasonable chance Rick Benjamin and Tommy Kendall will be in the booth again this year, though someone threw out Paul Page's name now that he is no longer doing the IRL broadcasts.
Anderson to be Jordan Technical DirectorUPDATE Gary Anderson has talked down widespread speculation that he will head the engineering department in any tie-up between Jordan and Midland. Anderson , who led Jordan’s technical operations from 1991-2000 and from 2002-03, is currently working as a consultant to Dallara on its Midland F1 chassis program. His links to the two teams make him an ideal candidate to oversee the merger and future direction of Midland-Jordan. But he said he had not been approached about any such role. “My position now is that I’m working as a consultant to Dallara on its F1 chassis project,” said Anderson. “I don’t have any direct links with Midland, even though Midland obviously has its deal with Dallara.” Autosport Magazine01/16/05 Grandprix.com hears that Gary Anderson will be the technical director of the new Jordan/Midland F1 operation. If the news is confirmed Anderson will be working once again with designer Mark Smith, who was his deputy at Jordan 14 years ago when the pair designed the first Jordan F1 car.
Three possibilities for Dubai F1 teamUPDATE#3 The long-awaited Dubai F1 team, a launch delayed since last November, does not mean the project has folded, according to McLaren. The team announced last October it would back Team Dubai’s plan to enter F1 in 2006, running year-old McLaren chassis with Mercedes engines and operating out of McLaren’s old Woking factory. A spokesman said this week: “We can confirm that Mercedes-Benz and McLaren are in exclusive negotiations with Team Dubai F1 for the supply of engines and technical assistance for their program.” Autosport Magazine08/23/04 The sale of Jordan to Dubai's royal 'Al Maktoum' family has failed to materialize, F1 media reports on Tuesday revealed. A statement in July said 'Grand Prix Investments' - started by Jenson Button's manager John Byfield - may become Dubai's team. The sum of 70 million Euros was mooted and former owner Eddie Jordan would have remained as manager for a couple of seasons. EJ admitted last month that talks were taking place. But the new report said Byfield's talks have now ceased. A spokeswoman for Silverstone-based Jordan said she would make no comment on the team's behalf until there's 'something to report.' No doubt Jordan would welcome a cash injection considering plans to enlarge the factory and build a new wind tunnel are approved. 08/11/04According to this AutoWeek article, Dubai royal family member Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum is close to buying a controlling stake in Jordan Grand Prix. His company, Grand Prix International, is negotiating to buy out Merrion Capital, a consortium of Irish investors that acquired 49.9 percent of the stock in Jordan last year from Warburg Pincus, the venture capital firm. Team namesake Eddie Jordan is also ready to sell most of the remaining stock to GPI, but will retain a minority holding and stay on with the company as a consultant for at least two years. The deals, which include the team’s factory at Silverstone, have been reported to be worth £40 million (about $73.6 million), though Jordan declared a profit of £587,000 ($1.08 million) in 2003. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum is an uncle of the ruler of Dubai and the chairman of the Emirates airline. 07/21/04 This week's Autosport Magazine reports that the Dubai investors linked with a buy-out of the Jordan team are expected to reveal their plans within the next few weeks. A source close to the negotiations said the investors were edging towards a completion of their business assessment of the teams involved – believed to be Jaguar and Minardi as well as Jordan – and were pressing ahead with their plans. “In the next couple of weeks we will have a clear idea of what we plan to do,” said the source. If the deal is completed with Jordan, it is expected the team will become Emirates Jordan in 2005.
FIA to make tire rule about face Autosport Magazine reports that F1’s governing body is poised to make a dramatic U-turn and abandon its support for the category to be supplied by a single tire manufacturer in 2006. At a meeting scheduled for January 28, Autosport understands the FIA will tell teams it no longer believes that moving to a single tire supplier is the best way to reduce costs in the sport. The move marks a significant change in position for FIA President Max Mosley, who last May told a Monaco meeting of F1 team principals: “In my view the advantages of a single tire supplier are huge.”
The FIA is expected to introduce a range of cost-cutting measures at the January 28 meeting, many of them focused on restricting the use of exotic materials. Its abandonment of support for one-make tire supply is likely to upset team principals, though, many of whom had been expected to back the move.
The technical director of one major team said: “The tire war is not only killing F1 competition and stopping the lesser-funded teams from running near the front, but it’s by far the single biggest cost saving we could make. The tire war is 10 times any other cost such as gearboxes, etc. It’s no problem to save on these smaller things but it’s senseless to continue with the tire war and it’s completely against everything else that Max has been preaching.”
Schumacher won’t stop until... Sources close to Michael Schumacher believe he won’t stop until he has won 10 world championships. According to this month’s edition of F1 Racing magazine, Schumacher has also set his heart on racking up 100 race wins. Schumacher has two more years on his current Ferrari contract but told guests at the FIA Prize Giving Gala in December that he had no plans to quit. He said: “There’s so much more to come, so much more to enjoy, and so much more to win.” Schumacher’s CV currently boasts 83 race wins and seven world titles. Given Ferrari’s current level of dominance, it is not inconceivable that he could chalk up a century of race wins within the next two years. Schumacher is already 32 race wins ahead of his nearest rival, Alain Prost with 51 victories. But the suggestion that the German is keen to win 10 world titles is more of an eye-opener. ITV-F1
Gordon to run Indy 500 Look for Robby Gordon to once again run the 600 at Lowe's and the Indianapolis 500 this year. He said that a sponsor deal is "on the table" and that he is now an owner. "Last year I had to leave early, this year, I'm a car owner and I don't have to leave early."
Laguna Seca to replace Champ Car race Two AMA Superbike races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca this year? It's a possibility according to track general manager Gill Campbell. Campbell said that the track was looking for a major event to replace their traditional September Champ Car date at about the same time that the AMA races at Brainerd International Raceway and Virginia International Raceway were falling apart. "It was very coincidental," Campbell said at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. "The day that Brainerd and VIR were canceled was pretty much the day we determined that we were going to move on and do something else. "As far as the AMA and ourselves are concerned, hey we can help out each other here." The race weekend would be September 9-11, almost exactly two months after the July 8-10 combined MotoGP/AMA weekend. Cycle News
Halliday eyes Champ Car Auckland racing driver Matt Halliday is heading to the United States for an official two-day test with top Champ Car team Mi-Jack Conquest Racing. The test is scheduled to take place at the historic Sebring circuit in Florida on February 4 and 5. Halliday raced for Conquest in the 2001 Indy Lights Championship in which he finished sixth overall despite contesting only nine of the 12 races. He was subsequently injured in an oval race in the US but came back to compete in the Renault V6 championship in Europe, where he had an impressive podium finish in a support race to the Monaco Grand Prix. For the past two seasons he has been a front-runner in the Porsche GT3 series on his home circuits. Halliday has been negotiating the test over the past 18 months and hopes a successful performance can lead to a fulltime seat in the Champ Car races, which are contested in the US, Canada, Mexico and Australia. He has begun the search for sponsorship in time for the first race at Long Beach on April 10. New Zealand Herald
Formula BMW to dump Champ CarUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement of the 2005 Formula BMW schedule. One once, at Denver, will Formula BMW race with Champ Car. See Hot News page for Formula BMW announcement. Over the decades Champ Car's ladder system has produced some of the best drivers in the world, drivers who have gone on to win many races and championship. After 2005 when the Toyota Atlantic Series disappears, Champ Car's ladder system will be completely wiped out unless OWRS takes some action soon. BTW, we don't consider Trans-Am a ladder system to Champ Car because they are not open wheel cars. Mark C.01/11/05 We have learned that this decision has less to do with Champ Car management, and more to do with the Champ Car schedule. FBMW is very closely managed by BMW Motorsports, and prefers to align itself more with road racing rather than street racing. This is so that it will more closely "match" its counterparts in Europe, Asia, and the UK. Remember this year there will be a runoff at the end of the year between the best drivers from North America, Asia, Europe and the UK. Mark C.01/11/05 Our Formula BMW sources tell us that the series will drop their association with Champ Car and will probably team up with Grand-Am or another sanctioning body. If true this is another major blow to the Champ Car series. How they can mismanage an important relationship with BMW is beyond us, but perhaps one of the staffing changes made recently is as a result of this blown deal. With no completed TV deal in place yet, the mice are jumping ship and the oval track cartel are picking up the pieces. With Toyota leaving after 2005 and no word from Ford that they will re-up with Champ Car, whether they will have any manufacturers associated with them in 2006 is anyone’s guess.
Robby Gordon to Announce Cup Series Sponsorship PlansUPDATE Fruit of the Loom and Robby Gordon Motorsports are carrying their NASCAR partnership to the next level in 2005 by announcing today that the world-renowned apparel company will sponsor Gordon in nine NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series events and one NASCAR Busch Series race. The Fruit of the Loom Racing Team debuted in the Busch Series last season; during which Gordon drove the #55 Chevrolet to a victory at Richmond, four other top-five finishes and ten top-10s. Robby Gordon Motorsports (RGM) hopes to match that success during Speedweeks 2005 at Daytona, where Gordon is entered in the Feb. 19 Hershey's 300 Busch Series event. For that race only, the team will again run car #55. It will campaign car #7 in NEXTEL Cup competition, with Fruit of the Loom's first race in that series slated for April 3 in the Food City 500. Gordon has three wins, including a sweep of both road-course events in 2003, won the Gatorade 125 Daytona 500 qualifying race in 2003 and has banked more than $15 million in NASCAR winnings. Bob Temple will return as crew chief. The team will utilize Hopkins Chassis with engines supplied by Menard Engineering. The Indianapolis and Oxfordshire, England-based company has supplied engines for cars that have won the pole for the famed Indianapolis 500 three times, powering Team Menard to a pair of Indy Racing League championships in 1997 and 1999. RGM ran Menard engines in three Busch Series races last season. Fruit of the Loom's remaining schedule of 2005 races (following Bristol) will be announced at a later date. For more information, visit www.fruit.comCamp and Assoc PR01/17/05 Rumor has it that Robby Gordon will announce his full 2005 Cup Series sponsorship plans on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2005 at Daytona International Speedway.
2005 IROC driver lineup Hearing the following drivers will run the 2005 IROC Series: Matt Kenseth - NASCAR Nextel Cup (2004 Crown Royal IROC champion) Kurt Busch - NASCAR Nextel Cup (2004 Series champion) Mark Martin - NASCAR Nextel Cup (4-time Crown Royal IROC champion) Sebastien Bourdais - CHAMP CAR (2004 Series champion) Bobby Hamilton NASCAR - Craftsman Truck (2004 Series champion) Steve Kinser - World of Outlaws (2004 Series champion) Max Papis - Grand American Road Racing (2004 Series co-champion) Scott Pruett - Grand American Road Racing (2004 Series co-champion) Martin Truex Jr. - NASCAR Busch Series (2004 Series champion) Helio Castroneves - IRL IndyCar Series (2-time Indianapolis 500 champion) Buddy Rice - IRL IndyCar Series (2004 Indianapolis 500 champion) Danny Lasoski - World of Outlaws (2001 Series champion) Jayski.com
Enge eyes IRLUPDATE #2 Tomas Enge was confirmed Monday as the second driver in Panther Racing's Indy Racing League program for the 2005 season. He joins returnee Tomas Scheckter. Enge, a 28-year-old driver from the Czech Republic, has finished in the top four of the international F3000 series three times in the past four years. He started two Indy-car races in 2004 for Patrick Racing, which is not expected to participate in the IRL this season. Indy Star01/17/05 Rumor has it that on Tuesday Panther Racing will announce Czech driver Tomas Enge as a teammate to Tomas Scheckter to make it a pair of foreign Tomas’s in this the only American powered (Chevy)team for 2005. Tell those short trackers to burn those 'Road to Indy' hats, they're meaningless. 11/24/04 Speaking to Crash.net at Donington Park where he was helping Prodrive test the new Aston Martin DBR9 Le Mans challenger, Tomas Enge said he would be thrilled to race the Sportscar if possible, but it would have to run alongside his main program – with talks ongoing with Patrick Racing about a drive in the IRL for 2005.
“Show me anyone who would not like to drive for this team and drive this car!” he said after a day of testing. “It all depends on what my main program is for next season. My focus is on single seaters, either in IRL, Champ Cars or maybe elsewhere. It's too early to say anything for certain.
“I'm still a road course racer and the IRL has about 14 or 15 ovals and three road courses which isn't really enough. [The ovals] are a completely different type of racing and you need half a year of experience to find out what it is all about. It wasn't easy, I did two tests before the first race this season and it was difficult for me to feel the car, it was difficult to get in the groove. It was generally not bad, it was hard but it wasn't bad. I'd say I need at least another half a year to find out what it is all about.
“I'd say the chance of the IRL and Champ Cars is about the same. We are in really good talks with Chevrolet and Patrick Racing who I drove for this season in those two races so it's looking very positive but we still have time to decide and I wouldn't say that either has an advantage over the other.”
Sierra Sierra eyes new PanAm seriesUPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false.' According to a team spokesperson Sierra Sierra is not eyeing the PanAmerican Series. 01/16/05 The Toyota Atlantic championship took a blow a few days ago when the Sierra Sierra team announced they were leaving the series. Speculation has been rampant as to where they are going. Some say the IRL or the IPS Series, still others say Grand-Am or Star Mazda. Another rumor making the rounds says the team is also looking at the new PanAmerican Series, which has major backing from Renault. Here is the formal press release put out today about the series. Looking at their website it's clear they are well on the way to making the Toyota Atlantic Series a thing of the past....which it will be regardless after 2005. The Renault V6 car will easily out perform the Toyota Atlantic cars. With Formula BMW also rumored to be flying the coop, and the karting series now under the IRL's wings, Champ Car's ladder system will soon be history if OWRS doesn't react quickly. Mark C.
PanAmerican Series drawing big interest Rumor has it that the new PanAmerican appears to be the right formula at the right time for a North American Open Wheel Racing development series. We hear they already sold 50% of the available 1-year old Renault V6 cars being refurbished by the Renault factory and they already have15 entries for FR2000. Once all the refurbished cars are spoken for, teams will have to purchase all-new units from Renault-Sport. The PanAmerican Series was just announced this past weekend at the Autosport show in the UK and the fact that they already have this sort of interest indicates a very positive start indeed. Mark C.
Midland to buy Jordan, maybeUPDATE #3 Eddie Jordan spent the weekend in the Alps and was not easily contactable but our sources tell us that the Irishman is denying that a deal has been done with the Russian businessman Alex Schnaider to sell the Jordan F1 team to the new Midland F1 organization. This does not mean that a deal will not be done at some point in the future but at the moment the team remains under Jordan's control and there are signs that it could remain that way. The rumors of the Midland purchase appear to have been sparked by the appearance at the Autosport Show in Birmingham of Midland's new technical director Gary Anderson and started on the Autosport.com website. After that they grew at a rate of knots and with Jordan unavailable for comment have got a little out of control. Grandprix.com01/15/05 Eddie Jordan has agreed to sell his Formula 1 team to Russian entrepreneur Alex Shnaider, Autosport.com revealed today, with an announcement confirming the news due to be made next Sunday. The deal will bring an end to Jordan's 14-year tenure as F1's most charismatic team boss. Autosport reports that Shnaider will take over the outfit as its new team principal, with Jordan being moved into a role as commercial director. Other staff changes are also taking place, one of which could be that Midland F1's advisor Trevor Carlin takes over as team manager.
Speaking to Autosport, Jordan confirmed that changes were afoot. “No deal has yet been finalized,” he said. “But my role will change.” "We are going forward strongly and it is business as usual," Jordan told The Guardian. "The 2005 program with us switching to Toyota engines is going ahead and we are not changing any people on the payroll. But my role may change to concentrate more on the commercial side to work on future investment in the team. We could obviously be stronger and I would be happy to bring aboard new partners even if it meant diluting my own equity stake in the company, if it meant we could get back to the situation where there was a possibility of winning races."
01/06/05 According to Grandprix.com, the Jordan team is now off the market. The word on the street at Silverstone is that Jordan Grand Prix is not for sale after the failure of negotiations between Eddie Jordan and Christian Horner of the Arden International Formula 3000 team. There has been vague talk of deals with Midland F1 and with a mysterious Chinese backer but the latest suggestion is that Jordan is going to go it alone and wait until the value of the F1 teams increase. Both Bernie Ecclestone and the GPWC are promising big payments for Formula 1 teams which join them. The value of the teams is uncertain because of the uncertainties which hang over the sport. 12/15/04 Alex Shnaider has emerged as a candidate to buy Jordan Grand Prix, Autosport has learned. The backer of the Midland-Dallara Formula 1 project, which is due to enter the 2006 World Championship, has made early enquiries as to Jordan’s position amid speculation that he might prefer to buy out an existing team rather than continue with his plan to build one from scratch. Buying Jordan would guarantee Shnaider an entry into the 2005 championship and he would avoid paying the $48 million (£25m) deposit required as a new entrant.
Shnaider’s office would not comment on his position in relation to Jordan, but sources confirm he visited the Silverstone factory last week with a handful of close aides. The future ownership of Jordan remains unresolved. Christian Horner, boss of Formula 3000 champion team Arden International, is still in talks with Eddie Jordan, but the two sides appear unable to agree financial terms. A third potential buyer is also understood to be holding talks. Jordan, who owns 51 per cent of the team, with the remaining 49 per cent held by the Irish Merrion consortium, is believed to be unwilling to sell for less than £30m. Autosport Magazine
Paffett offered F1 seat? British star of German 'DTM' racing, Gary Paffett, may have been offered a F1 test contract for '05, we can reveal. But he turned it down, reportedly, in favor of Paffett's management searching out a full time race drive for the '06 season. ''We always talked about a full seat only,'' the 24-year-old said. ''I don't want to just test, because I want to show what I can do when I am racing.'' Paffett also admitted that a one-off test run for McLaren, due to the connection with Mercedes-Benz's DTM team, is a possibility this year.
NASCAR still eyes Seattle market Bill France Jr. said NASCAR's plans to expand into the Seattle market aren't dead, despite a December no vote by Washington state politicians to an ISC-proposed $300 million speedway north of town. Winston Salem Journal
Briscoe to drive for Ganassi in IRLUPDATE #8 Former Formula One test driver Ryan Briscoe has signed to become Ganassi Racing's third driver in the Indy Racing League in 2005, joining Scott Dixon and Darren Manning. Briscoe, a 23-year-old Australian, was a Toyota test driver the past three F-1 seasons. Indy Star01/14/05 Rumor has it that the Ganassi team will announce Ryan Briscoe to drive alongside Darren Manning and Scott Dixon on Monday. 01/08/05 We forgot to upgrade this rumor to 'fact' back when the announcement was made. Our Ganassi moles are always spot on. 12/30/04 Ryan Briscoe has lost his shot at Formula One in 2005. The talented young Aussie does not have enough cash to compete in the multi-million dollar lottery for one of the open race places at the Jordan F1 team. Briscoe has the backing of Toyota, which will supply Eddie Jordan's V10 race engines next season, but even that wasn't enough to get him on the grid for the Fosters Australian Grand Prix in March alongside Mark Webber at Williams.
Instead, Briscoe is expected to accept a next-best offer to join the crack Chip Ganassi team in the Indy Racing League in the United States for 2005. His program will include the classic Indianapolis 500 race.
He would slide in alongside New Zealander Scott Dixon at a team which has won major American open-wheel championships with Dixon, Alex Zanardi and Juan Pablo Montoya. Zanardi and Montoya both used victory with Ganassi in the US as a springboard into F1.
"Yes, I have been to the US. Yes, I have tested with Ganassi," Briscoe said this week. "But I cannot talk about my plans for next year. Not yet."
Briscoe is on holidays in Sydney with his family and Italian girlfriend, and his deal is likely to be announced in the US in January. But he has been gagged by the team, and Toyota, until they are ready to release details of his program.
Still, the move to the US is an open secret and will ensure Briscoe keeps his ties to Toyota, which supplies engines to Ganassi's Target-sponsored team. It could even include a clause which takes him back to its F1 team in a couple of years. Briscoe has been groomed for GP racing by Toyota since he was a youngster in go-karts and he was the first graduate of the Toyota Driver Academy which operates from its F1 headquarters at Cologne in Germany. He has been an F1 test driver with the Japanese carmaker for the past two years. Herald Sun
12/01/04 Our Ganassi moles tell us Australian Ryan Briscoe has indeed signed with the team. We await the official announcement. Yet another foreigner for the supposedly "American" Indy Car series. We think it's time for those short track drivers to burn those "Road to Indy" hats. It's amazing how Tony George snowballed the entire dirt track industry into thinking they were the Road to Indy. All they got were silly hats and broken promises. 12/01/04 Toyota protégé Ryan Briscoe, who had been expected to land a Formula 1 drive with either Jordan or Minardi next season, has moved into pole position for the third IRL IndyCar Series seat at Target Ganassi Racing alongside Scott Dixon and Darren Manning. Briscoe tested for two days on the road course at Firebird Raceway in Phoenix and then two days on the oval at Phoenix International Raceway. Autosport Magazine11/30/04 Our sources in Indy are telling us that word on the street is that Ryan Briscoe will drive a third Chip Ganassi car in the IRL in 2005 with backing from Toyota. Mark C.11/29/04 This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' today and may soon go to 'false.' According to this TSN.ca article, Ryan Briscoe has apparently broken off talks with Jordan about a possible Formula One ride in 2005. Briscoe was set to test with the team this week in Jerez, Spain but pulled out after talks with Eddie Jordan failed to reach an advanced stage, according to Autosport magazine. Briscoe was rumored to be on the list of driver candidates following Jordan's deal with manufacturer Toyota to use their engines in 2005. Briscoe is supported by Toyota and was part of the Formula One team's test team this past season. The Australian is now reportedly considering his options outside of Formula One for 2005 which may include the Indy Racing League, which is supported by Toyota. [Editor's Note: Depending on how his contract is worded with Toyota, he should be going to Champ Car, which actually races where Ryan calls home - Australia. Does he really want to become an oval track driver after developing as a road racer? We can see him in Champ Car racing, a far better option for his career than as a F1 test driver. Hmm......] 11/28/04 Toyota test driver Ryan Briscoe is rumored to be testing for the Jordan Grand Prix team this coming week, during the same test as Dutch DTM driver Christijan Albers, who was behind the wheel of a Minardi earlier this week. This will be Jordan’s first test session since the end of the 2004 season. They will test from Wednesday to Saturday with an interim chassis powered by the 2004 spec Cosworth engines. Jordan will run Toyota engines in 2005 and it's rumored that part of that deal with Toyota is for Ryan Briscoe to be one of the Jordan drivers in 2005.
F1 testing limit plan about to collapse Autosport reports that Honda officials revealed at the Autosport International show that Honda will not go along with the 2005 30-day in-season testing limit if Ferrari does not agree as well. Honda wants to win the World Championship and refuses to put itself at an immediate disadvantage to Ferrari by agreeing to something Ferrari doesn't. If Honda backs out, the whole plan to cut testing, and hence costs, will be scuppered. Mark C.
Jordan on verge of deal with Arden - NoUPDATE #3 This rumor is of course 'false' with today's announcement by Eddie Jordan that he has struck a deal with Midland. 12/08/04 The sale of Jordan Grand Prix to Arden team boss Christian Horner by Eddie Jordan are still in a state of flux, according to Autosport sources. Horner is leading a Hong Kong consortium which wants to buy the team for a figure estimated at £15 million, but the parties had yet to agree terms. Under the proposal Jordan would no longer be involved in the team. Those close to him say that, while he has accepted he may have to relinquish control of the team he brought to Formula 1 in 1991, but he does not yet believe Horner’s bid to be credible. Time may be running out for Jordan, however, because without a buyer or a new sponsor, the team’s sources of income are limited. One insider said Jordan’s options were now restricted to selling the team, using some of his private capital to keep it afloat or closing it down. Jordan has held talks with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone in recent days over the team’s position. Autosport Magazine11/29/04 Eddie Jordan and his Irish backers are to sell their stakes in the Jordan Grand Prix team for around UK£30m within the next fortnight, a weekend report claims. The buyer will be the UK-based motor racing team Arden International, headed by Christopher Horner, says the Sunday Times. It quotes a financial adviser to Arden as saying that "final negotiations with the Jordan shareholders are taking place and a deal is very close to being signed". Arden, Horner and members of a new management team will hold 50pc of the equity, with the balance held by an unnamed Chinese multinational company. The team will be rebranded under the name of Arden and its Chinese partner. Jordan currently owns 50.1 percent of the team and a consortium of Irish investors hold the rest through Dublin stockbroker Merrion Capital. The Irish investors are thought to include Denis O'Brien, Dermot Desmond, John Magnier and property developer Tom Quinn. The Jordan team made a profit of UK£587,000 last year on a turnover of UK£46.6m, but is expected to make a loss this year. Business World11/26/04 Eddie Jordan and Christian Horner are believed to be only days away from announcing a deal which will see the team pass into the hands of the owner of the Arden International Formula 3000 team. Eddie Jordan and Horner have been in negotiation for weeks but the whisper in F1 circles is that a deal is now done and the team will soon change its name. It is not clear yet who is bankrolling the deal but Horner has obviously found backing from somewhere. The big question now is who will drive for the team, which ran Nick Heidfeld and Timo Glock at the end of the year, the team having agreed to part with Giorgio Pantano in the latter part of the year. Heidfeld is still on the market although BMW appear to want to see him as a driver at BMW Williams (probably a test driver). Glock is still on the market but will have to contend with the likes of Ryan Briscoe (who may help lessen the load of the Toyota engine deal) and David Coulthard is also still out there, looking for a job. Horner is also known to be very keen to secure the services of Vitantonio Liuzzi, who won the Formula 3000 title this year with Arden. Liuzzi is impressing in his tests at Red Bull Racing, where Tony Purnell is also a big fan. It is worth noting that in recent weeks there has also been some revived interest in Liuzzi from down Williams way although the Italian is keen to get a racing seat in F1 rather than a testing role. Grandprix.com
Dutch trio eye Champ CarUPDATE #7 According to this Dutch website interview with Nicky Pastorelli, he feels he has a good shot at landing a Champ Car ride, and we hear it is with Walker Racing. As we understand it, the Eurosport TV deal Champ Car negotiated has opened up the eyes of many drivers and sponsors in Europe. The chance to be on live TV every race at a fraction of the cost of F1 is very enticing, hence why we are seeing a lot of European drivers knocking on Champ Car team owner doors. We suspect that the quality of driving talent in Champ Car this year will be the best it has been in five years or more. Quite exciting really. Mark C.12/19/04 According to this interview with Albers, the Champ Car test with Walker Racing was good for his sponsors Trust and JVC because it did not cost them anything. However, he has a contract with Mercedes in DTM until 2006 and isn't looking at a move to Champ Car. If not F1, he will stay in DTM. 12/15/04Christijan Albers may want to be a Formula 1 driver (seated in Jordan F1 car to right) in 2005 but he is keeping his options open with a test in the United States with a Walker Racing Champ Car. The test will take place at Sebring in Florida and there are suggestions that the Euro 3000 champion Nicky Pastorelli will also be seen testing for the team. The two men have recently tested for Minardi and Albers is known to be on the list of possible drivers for the year ahead, although we hear that Nicolas Kiesa and Zsolt Baumgartner are currently the men who are the most likely to be joining the team. Patrick Friesacher also impressed the team but the team does not have the luxury of choosing drivers it wants and has to accept the ones that can pay the most money. Grandprix.com12/14/04 Reports from Europe affirm that Dutchman Christijan Albers could bring his Trust sponsorship stateside next year. Albers, a DTM regular who has tested for Minardi and Jordan in the past few weeks, would have scheduled a test with one of Walker Racing’s Champ Cars tomorrow (Wednesday) at Sebring, Florida. The information comes on the heels of Champ Car’s new, much-improved European TV package, which will have all their races live on Eurosport. Albers’ Champ Car move could open the doors of Formula 1 to countryman Robert Doornbos, who reportedly is, alongside Albers, one of the frontrunners for a racing seat in Eddie Jordan’s team. According to the rumors, 2004 Euro 3000 champion Nicky Pastorelli would also be a part of the Walker test. SPEEDTV.com12/13/04 According to this Dutch website, Albers is out at Mercedes DTM, thereby increasing the chances he will be looking to land a Champ Car seat in 2005. 12/08/04 DTM star Christijan Albers and Euro F3000 champion Nicky Pastorelli will test a Champ Car for Walker Racing at Sebring on December 14. Albers has recently tested for Formula 1 teams Jordan and Minardi, while Pastorelli has been driving the new Formula Superfund chassis. Autosport Magazine12/04/04 Champ Car's Walker Racing has signed a 2-month option on Dutch F3000 star Nicky Pastorelli. Pastorelli will fly to the USA and test one of Walker's Reynards on December 14th and will also test a Minardi F1 car in January. Pastorelli won this year's Euro 3000 Superfund championship. We added Pastorelli to our 2005 Champ Car Silly Season page. 10/31/04 Our European sources inform us that after winning the final race of the Superfund Euro3000 series at Nürburgring today, and clinching the title, Dutch-Italian Nicky Pastorelli said next year his aim is to land a ride in either F1 or Champ Car. He has some connections with the new Midland F1 team, and he is guaranteed a F1 test for winning the Superfund title. He also has secured an F1 super license. Another Dutchman, Jos Verstappen, has been eyeing Champ Car as well. Mark C.
McNish eyes LeMans return Former Le Mans winner Allan McNish has admitted that he is interested in making a return to the world famous race this year – especially because his DTM commitments with Audi do not clash with the June event. Making an appearance at the Autosport International on Saturday, the former Grand Prix driver admitted that he remained attracted to competing at Le Mans – especially because his chances of victory in 2004 came to an end after only a few hours of running. “I only did two hours last year, so I have still got 22 to finish before I start the next one,” joked McNish, speaking on the Autosport Central Stage. “Looking at the current year then DTM will be the main focus, but Audi do have cars competing in Le Mans and at the moment it is being finalized roughly how many. I would love to do Le Mans. It is something very close to my heart and when you stand on the podium, having achieved a goal by actually finishing, let alone the success I have had, it is like a drug. That is what brings me back and brings the spectators back.” Autosport
Champ Car gets their yearbook back As we wrote recently, Hazelton Publishing had decided that they were not going to publish the annual Autocourse yearbook for Champ Car for the 2004 season. That prompted Champ Car President Dick Eidswick and Kevin Kalkhoven to fly to London to meet with Hazelton. We now hear they have struck a deal and the 2004 yearbook should be out before the first race in Long Beach. Word is that Jeremy Shaw, who has done the brunt of the work on the yearbook in recent years, may not be available this late in the ballgame and Gordon Kirby has been asked to do it.
IRL to land street race in Canada The jump from Champ Car to the Indy Racing League means Patrick Carpentier won't race in Canada this year, but he hopes to be back soon. "I know (the IRL) is trying really hard to get a race in Canada and I hope they succeed in the next year or two," the Joliette, Que., driver said Friday as his new Red Bull Cheever Racing team car was unveiled at the Montreal Auto Show. "It would be exciting to come back to race in Canada. I'll miss not racing in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, but that's how it is." The Canadian races have been some of the few bright spots in recent years for the beleaguered Champ Car series, formerly known as IndyCars, a name has been co-opted by the IRL. The Vancouver Molson Indy was replaced by a new race in Edmonton on the 14-event Champ Car schedule for 2005. Team boss Eddie Cheever said there would be an IRL race in Canada "very soon" and that it would be a street race, but gave no further hints of where and when it might take place. Canadian Press [Editor's Note: Eddie Cheever spouts a lot of things about the IRL that never come true. But if he is correct, one has to assume the venue would be Calgary or Vancouver.]
Hunter-Reay destined for Forsythe RacingAutosport.com reports that Champ Car race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay has ruled out a switch to the inaugural GP2 series this year after reiterating his determination to get into Formula 1. Speaking on stage at the Autosport International Racing Car Show on Friday, the American 24-year-old confirmed that he intends to stay in Champ Cars in 2005, although admitted that he has yet to conclude a deal with a team.
"The only reason I would do GP2 is to learn the tracks for F1," he said. "I would see it as a step backwards from Champ Cars. I have great business opportunities with Champ Car. I've been coming up through that ladder and they have supported my career a lot. I wouldn't get that over here in Europe.
"But nevertheless my whole goal is to get to Formula 1, and right now for me, Champ Cars is the best way to get there."
Hunter-Reay, who recently signed to CSS Stellar management which is also responsible for Juan Pablo Montoya's career, endured a difficult season with Herdez in 2004 and admits he needs more from this year.
"It wasn't a good year," he said. "We should have had quite a few podiums last year, I got knocked off at Toronto when I should have finished third. That's how the season was, it was bunch of sixth, seventh and eighth places, which was horrible. We had that one great race where we won in Milwaukee, which showed that when we could get the set-up right, we could nail it."
Although he would not be drawn on the team's identity, Hunter-Reay believes he is close to a deal with a new team for 2005. "It will be a bit of a step up but I'd say it's probably right on the same platform as the team as I was with before," he said. "The reason why I say that is that Newman/Haas Racing is the team that is really the big step up. I'm trying to make that intermediate step between them and where I was last year.
"If I drive for a team that is unproven then it is not a whole lot of pressure, but either way there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to win a race this season. Being that it is a level playing field like it is. Obviously Newman Haas has an upper hand over everybody else and RuSPORT have done a lot and I have to compete with those guys." [Editor's Note: Based on what Ryan is saying we have to believe he is talking about Forsythe Racing (or Rocketsports) as that is the only team with open seats that have won races on merit (straight up...whatever). He says a step below Newman/Haas, which leads us to conclude Forsythe, which has won a championship recently and who we hear he will drive for. However, why is the only American to win a Champ Car race each of the past two years and the only one in over twenty years to win in his rookie year in Champ Car still without a ride? We hear a lot of names being batted around for Forsythe Racing and PKV Racing, and Rocketsports is testing a slew of drivers in early February, yet Hunter-Reay still has no contract. We bet he will be pissed if the music stops and he doesn't have a chair after turning down a ride in the IRL with Ganassi and Toyota who does have a F1 team and is very aware of what an American could do for them in F1.]
Rocketsports eyeing 5 driversUPDATE #2 Latest scuttlebutt has Rocketsports testing drivers for their 2nd car at Sebring February 4th to the 6th. We will let you know exactly which drivers will be tested when that information is made available to us. 12/23/04 It is possible that the driver named Pasto we heard about is a promising young Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado (pictured right) who recently tested for the Minardi F1 team. In his very first time in an F1 car at the recent test with Minardi he was within 0.5 sec. of Christjian Albers, who the team just hired as a full-time regular driver for 2005. Maldonado's previous experience was in Formula Renault so F1 was a big jump. "We have seen a young Venezuelan driver, in Pastor Maldonado, who put in a very good performance, especially considering he has made the considerable jump from Formula Renault to Formula One," stated Gian Carlo Minardi. “I’m really impressed. This is my first time in a Formula One car, and I just didn’t expect such power. This year, I have been driving a much smaller, less powerful car in Formula Renault 2000, and I have also tested an F3000 car, but the F1 car is something completely different. It’s amazing," said Maldonado. 12/22/04 AutoRacing1.com sources have learned that the Rocketsports team is talking to five drivers for their second seat and Europeans figure in heavily. Apparently the team is talking to Timo Glock (Jordan F1), Jos Verstappen (Arrows F1), Richard Lyons (Formula Nippon, etc. star), a driver named Pasto and Canadian David Rutledge. Paul Gentilozzi will travel to Europe in early January and a shootout will happen soon thereafter.
Waltrip and McMurray not back in current rides in 2006 On the question surrounding Michael Waltrip's future with DEI - the 2005 NASCAR season opener is still a few weeks away, but already the future of two of NASCAR's top stars is being debated: Will Waltrip get a contract renewal, and will #42-Jamie McMurray sign a contract with Chip Ganassi. And the answers to both questions appears to be no. Waltrip said he has to make something happen by April or May "or I probably won't be back." However insiders say Waltrip is already penciled in for a new ride elsewhere in 2006. And McMurray, who was heavily wooed by Joe Gibbs and others last summer, isn't expected to sign a renewal with Ganassi. McMurray yesterday declined to say much about his future. He is widely figured to be #2-Rusty Wallace's choice to replace him in the Roger Penske camp next season. This is Wallace's final season on the tour. "We hear the same rumors you here... and with Darrell tied in with Toyota, there's the question, 'Will Michael going to end up with Toyota?' "Eury Sr. said. Winston Salem Journal
A1 GP set for Brands HatchUPDATE This rumor is now 'fact.' The opening round of the 2005 A1 Grand Prix series will be at Brands Hatch in the UK. The announcement was made today at the Autosport International Exhibition where A1 Grand Prix President, Sheikh Maktoum was accompanied by Jonathan Palmer, MotorSport Vision Chief Executive, and also by John Surtees, Chairman of the British A1 Grand Prix Team.
“The UK plays a very important part in the heart of international motorsport and has a great heritage, so in many ways it is fitting that the first ever A1 race is held there," said Sheikh Maktoum. "If you look at where we are with A1 it is obvious the UK has provided us with so much in terms of value. The fans are very knowledgeable and it is an honor and privilege to race at a venue with such a rich history. I very much hope that the 18th September will be an exciting day for everyone in the UK from all walks of life and all nationalities.”
The race, which will take place at the Kent venue on 18th September 2005, will be one of the highlights of the Brands Hatch racing calendar this year, and a delighted Jonathan Palmer said: “We are thrilled to have the first ever event of this exciting new championship at Brands Hatch. MotorSport Vision is totally committed to revitalizing its circuits and returning Brands Hatch to the past glory days is a priority. It is a fabulous drivers’ circuit, steeped in history and has a fantastic atmosphere with the best viewing in Britain. Our three year agreement to host A1 Grand Prix now provides racing fans with a world class car racing event at Brands Hatch to complement our World Superbike Championship round, which is recognized as one of the best events in the championship, drawing a huge crowd.” A1GP
01/12/05 Brands Hatch is closing in on a deal to stage the opening round of the new A1 Grand Prix series in September. The Dubai-based series, which is scheduled to complete its first season over the European winter of 2005-06, is in advanced negotiations with the Jonathan Palmer-owned track. If the event is rubber-stamped it would confirm the return of high-powered singles seaters to the former British Grand Prix circuit for the first time since the Champ Car World Series raced there in 2003. An A1 GP spokesman said: “We feel positive about the event, but there’s no deal done yet.” If the race gets the green light, it seems likely that the 1.2-mile Indy configuration of the track will be used, although a spokesman for Brands Hatch said that there was a possibility that the full 2.6-mile Grand Prix layout could be used.
The A1 GP series, which mates a 500bhp Zytek V8 engine with a Lola chassis, had provisionally set its opening round for the Dubai Autodrome, but it now appears that the so-called World Cup of Motorsport will begin with two European events, with a round at Estoril in Portugal set to follow the Brands date. Autosport Magazine
TMS to dump IRL Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage delivered a verbal bumper tap Thursday to the Indy Racing League. Gossage's message: the IRL's future at the speedway could be in doubt because of increasing fees. "We have great races here," Gossage said. "But there again, if we can't afford them - and they're getting pretty doggone pricey - we're going to have to look hard at the future of Indy cars here at all. That's something that's really on my radar screen."
The IRL charges different licensing fees to different tracks, with Texas Motor Speedway's fees at the high end. IRL president Brian Barnhart was surprised by Gossage's remarks. "Our fees are still very, very reasonable," Barnhart said. "I don't see that our relationship is any different than it was before." Barnhart hopes Gossage won't let the IRL "be thrown out the window simply because he has two (Nextel) Cup dates. And I don't think Eddie is the type of person who would do that." While a Nextel Cup race could attract upwards of 200,000 fans, an IRL event is fortunate to draw half that figure.
The IRL is already down to one event at the speedway, which hosted two races from 1998-2004 in a mutually beneficial partnership. Gossage would like the IRL to remain a fixture on schedule. But the growth in fees has exceeded growth in gate and sponsorship, he said. "We're not here to have a good time," Gossage said. "We're here to have a good time and make a dollar or two in the process." Dallas Morning News [Editor's Note: More evidence that the attendance at most IRL races are as a result of free ticket giveaways. We say that because the IRL and TMS boast about 80,000 to 90,000 attendance each year for the IRL race at TMS and show pictures at an angle that looks impressive. If they had 'paid' attendance that high they would be floating in profit because we can tell you that the IRL sanctioning fee is not that high. We believe what we are seeing here is Gossage saying that when the 'sanction fee' was zero he made a hefty profit off of concession sales. Now that the IRL is charging money to come there, the profit from soda and hot dogs doesn't cover the sanction fee. TMS can sell out all their seats for both NASCAR races. The IRL attendance is largely a result of the essentially free tickets thrown in if you buy NASCAR tickets. TMS doesn't need the IRL to sell out their NASCAR races, so if soda and hot dog profits don't pay the IRL sanction fee than why hold the race at all.]
Pantano again eyes Champ CarUPDATE #3 Giorgio Pantano probably won't return to the grand prix grid in 2005. The Italian, who raced for Jordan last year but had to leave the team after Monza, admitted that the Silverstone-based squad 'is an option.' ''It's not going to be easy,'' he told the ItaliaRacing website. ''It depends on the conditions -- if it's going to be the same as 2004, then no.'' Pantano doesn't want to be a test driver, so he's also looking at Champ Car and F1 support category GP2. ''I'm interested in (GP2),'' he admitted. ''It's somewhere where a driver can go to show if he is good enough.'' 12/28/04 This SPEED TV article quotes Pantano as still preferring to be in F1, “I think I still have plenty to show, something I never got the chance to do at Jordan,” he said, hinting that his equipment was not always up to par with teammate Nick Heidfeld’s. “Minardi has boosted a lot of drivers’ careers [Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber being the latest examples], so it’s something I want to seek.” Paul Stoddart’s team has only one confirmed driver so far, Dutchman Christijan Albers. In case his Minardi pretensions fall apart, a switch to Champ Car is also in Pantano’s cards. “I’ve had plenty of conversations with [Champ Car] team owners, but honestly, I can’t say we got anything solid so far,” he concluded. [Editor's Note: Don't look for this guy in Champ Car. We suspect he will stay in Europe and race somewhere and is just using the Champ Car talk to get F1 to take notice. It won't work as he won't be back in F1 either.] 12/02/04 Pantano told GP2004.com “I would like to stay in Formula One because I haven’t had the chance to show what I can do with one of these cars. It was very hard because there are not many slots left, but I am working on it,” he told us. “There is still a drive with Jordan and I have made contact with Red Bull Racing, which should be a really nice team when they get to the championship. So nothing is lost, but I am also looking at Champ Car or other championships to make sure I have something to fall back on. But once again my greatest wish is to continue my career in F1!” [Editor's Note: We don't see him landing a ride in Champ Car unless he brings money. He is another driver who annually says he is "also eyeing Champ Car"] 11/05/04 We have it on good word that Italian Giorgio Pantano, former Jordan F1 driver, is again eyeing Champ Car after finally coming to the realization that a career in F1 is not going to happen. It remains to be seen whether he can land a deal this time around. Mark C.
Champ Car signs TV dealUPDATE #3 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. See announcement on Hot News Page. 01/13/05 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I hear you talk about the TV deal that could have been signed months ago and how good it was. Why was it so good? Joe McInerney, Long Island Dear Joe, The deal as we understand it called for 6 races on CBS in year 1, 9 on CBS in year 2 and 13 on CBS in year 3. The rest would have been on SPEED Channel, which would also have shown qualifying on Saturday. The only drawback to that deal was CBS could not show Long Beach live in year 1 as it conflicted with the Masters Golf Tournament. CBS could have shown it tape-delayed or SPEED would have shown it live. That would have not been an issue in years 2 and 3 and LB was willing to shift their race by one week. The deal was a time-buy but the prices negotiated were low. The increase to 13 races on network TV by year 3 would have been a major shot in the arm for Champ Car and would have helped the teams land sponsor deals, big deals. The deal that was finally signed is 1) Not as good, and 2) cost OWRS more money. However, Kevin Kalkhoven did not want to give Long Beach the opportunity to use the excuse of their race not being on network TV as a reason to give the race to the IRL after 2005. Mark C.01/12/05 Sources tell us the SPEED Channel deal will probably be announced Thursday - eight races on SPEED, and they think they can get five shown live, even though inventory is low. They could have had them all live had they struck the deal with SPEED months ago when they had the chance. 8 on SPEED, 4 on CBS and 2 on NBC = 14 races, a pathetically low number. Will Champ Car add at least two more races to make 16? Time will tell. Mark C.01/11/05 Rumor on the street is that Champ Car agreed to a deal with SPEED Channel today in Charlotte to broadcast the remaining Champ Car races not included in the CBS and NBC network races for the USA. We expect an announcement soon, possibly as soon as Wednesday. Mark C.
Champ Car to get major shot in arm AutoRacing1.com has learned more about Champ Car's TV deals for 2005 and they will be a major shot in the arm for the organization and for the teams trying to land new sponsors. When it is all said and done, 2005 Champ Car races will be available to over 420 million households worldwide, which equates to 1.125 billion potential viewers, a 68% increase over previous years. In addition to the great deal in Europe where all races will be shown live on Eurosport or Eurosport 2, new deals are close to being done in China, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, India, Thailand, Korea and others in Asia. South America will have excellent coverage and a TV deal in Mexico is progressing. The Tsunami in Asia slowed the contract negotiations in that part of the world, but they should all be done in late January, early February. Hopefully Champ Car's PR department will put this news to good use once all the deals are signed. We are also assured that for 2006, TV deals will be announced and done by September......as they should always be. Bottom line - compared to where the series was one year ago (bankrupt) the news of an extensive international TV package is evidence that the series is definitely turning the corner. Mark C.
Dario re-ups with AGR Dario Franchitti will be back driving for Andretti Green Racing in the Indy Racing League this season. The Scotsman, coming off a season in which he won two races and finished sixth in the IndyCar Series standings, signed a one-year contract extension Tuesday with the team co-owned by former driving star Michael Andretti, Kim Green and Kevin Savoree. Indy Star
Champ Car to announce two key hires Our moles deep inside Champ Car tell us that two key hires have been made recently, one we believe to be the head of operations vacated by John Lopes. We hear that one of the two hires was snatched from the IRL. We await the announcements. Mark C.
Trans-Am gets TV deal Our moles at Trans-Am tell us that when Champ Car struck their deal for SPEED Channel to broadcast at least 8 races this year, it included a deal to broadcast 10 Trans-Am races as well. We expect an announcement on that before long. This is good news for Trans-Am, which was faced with the possibility of no TV after SPIKE and CNBC turned them down. Mark C.
Petrobras ups money to Williams Petrobras has announced that it is increasing its sponsorship activities by 30% and plans to invest $16m in sports sponsorships, although this goes up to $21m when added to sponsorship which is coming from the Petrobras subsidiary Petrobras Distribuidora (BR). The company has cut back considerably on its activities in handball, surfing and Rio de Janeiro soccer team Flamengo and we believe that most of this money has gone into the Williams F1 deal which is estimated to be worth at least $10m. Being a state company Petrobras is bound to give details of its promotional budgets but it is not giving details of how much is being spent on each sport. However the local media says that Williams will get around half of the full budget. Grandprix.com [Editor's Note: There was a time when Champ Car would have been in the running for the Petrobras money. In fact, after Ayrton Senna died, CART was far more popular in Brazil than F1. CART was booming, TV ratings were high worldwide and the series was flush with money and sponsors. The Indy 500 TV ratings were significantly higher than NASCAR's Daytona 500. Then Tony George thought he had a better idea, created the IRL, split the sport in half, and killed an entire industry.]
News and rumors from the Czech RepublicUPDATE Czech driver Tomas Enge appears set to land a seat with Panther Racing in their second Dallara Chevrolet. Enge is also expected to drive a Prodrive Ferrari in select events. 12/09/04 According to this Jarek Janis website article, Janis will have another test with Forsythe Racing at Sebring Raceway the 15th of December 2004 and Jarek Janis's Manager, Antonín Charouz, will discuss with Forsythe in more detail about a possible Champ Car race in the Czech Republic in 2005. We think it's too late to have a race in the Czech Republic in 2005, unless of course it is at Brno, which is a permanent circuit. See other rumor on Brno from a week or so ago.
Hard Liquor to replace tobacco at McLarenUPDATE #2 McLaren's relationship with long-term partner West continues to be subject to speculation. Autosport has been told McLaren is about to enter a major commercial agreement with drinks manufacturer Diageo, which will bring its Johnny Walker whisky brand into F1. The arrival of Diageo in F1 would be in breach of a gentleman’s agreement, reached between UK drinks companies, not to sponsor the sport. 01/11/05 This rumor is downgraded to 'false.' Whiskey label 'Johnnie Walker' have pulled out despite coming close to a Formula One sponsor deal with McLaren or BAR, we can reveal. We reported in December that the Diageo-owned alcohol brand seriously considered a huge title sponsorship deal to replace McLaren's 'West' (cigarette) branding from mid-'05. But, according to a source, the Walker pull-out might be due to the legal confusion that could have resulted from the association of a motor racing company with hard liquor. 12/12/04 The world’s-biggest selling Scotch whisky brand, Johnnie Walker, is poised to take over from German cigarette brand West as “title sponsor” of the McLaren Mercedes Formula One from next season. According to a company insider, Johnnie Walker parent Diageo has secured a £36 million sponsorship deal with Woking-based McLaren Racing, after months of talks with parties including Bristol-based Imperial Tobacco, the owners of the West brand. Paul Walsh, chief executive of Diageo, an F1 fan, is described by the source as “the clear dealmaker in all of this.”
The new arrangement is expected to see McLaren drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya race in Formula One cars emblazoned in Johnnie Walker colors from as early as March 2005. The deal is understood to take effect from no later than July 31 2005 – which is when an Imperial Tobacco spokesman said West’s own sponsorship of McLaren officially ends. However, sources said it is more likely that the deal will start from March 6, when the 2005 Grand Prix season kicks off, with the Australian race in Melbourne. A spokesman for Imperial would not confirm which brand will replace West on McLaren Mercedes’ cars. But said: “We renegotiated the contract to comply with UK and EU legislation.” More at Sunday Herald [Editor's Note: Of course Diageo is making a big entry into NASCAR next year on the No. 99 Jack Roush Ford with its Crown Royal brand.]
GM could axe Saab A General Motors review of its Saab subsidiary could lead to the upmarket car brand being axed, if the heavy investment required to revive it is deemed unjustified. GM executives and people familiar with the study said there was only an outside chance that the Swedish brand would be killed off by the review, due to be completed within three months. But even a remote threat of the company being closed is likely to prompt a political storm in Sweden, where the automotive industry is one of the most important employers. Financial Times
Another NASCAR in works There are reports - as outlandish as they may seem - that some NFL figures are interested in creating a stock-car series of their own, if they can persuade some top NASCAR team owners to sign on. According to sources, there was similar talk around the NFL in the early 1990s, when Joe Gibbs first joined NASCAR, after winning three Super Bowls as coach of the Washington Redskins. Finding enough big-market tracks on which to race would seem to be a problem; unless there is a Bruton Smith angle at play. Winston Salem Journal
IRL considers new engine Word in Indy is that the IRL is considering approval of a small block fuel injected stock block engine for 2007 and beyond. Sad. If this is what has become of the sport by creating the IRL and ruining a good thing.
MBNA cutting back on the IRLUPDATE MBNA will no longer provide the pole award for IRL races except the Indy 500 as yet another Indy Car sponsor says adios to an industry reeling as a result of the creation of the IRL and the split of open wheel racing in the USA. 01/08/05 Rumor has it that MBNA ended their sponsorship of IRL "pole day" at the conclusion of 2004. However, MBNA is still listed on the IRL website as a sponsor, so this rumor may be false.
Smith to join Newman Rolex teamUPDATE At the Rolex 24 Guy Smith will drive for the Orbit team instead. 01/09/05 Rumor has it that Guy Smith will join the team of Paul Newman, Cristiano da Matta and Sebastien Bourdais for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Creation Autosportif to switch rubber Rumor has it that Creation Autosportif will switch to Michelin for 2005, which means their Zytek will be significantly faster than when on Goodyear's inferior tires.
Drivers being lured by big money to Rolex 24 The France family has opened up the faucet and the money is flowing freely in order to lure the best drivers to the Rolex 24. Kurt Busch said at Daytona Saturday, "We're getting paid a lot to do this and we're going to have fun." It's becoming more evident why the Grand-Am has new teams and drivers coming out of the woodwork to compete. Could the France family be making a big pitch to totally monopolize racing in the USA? They already have a monopoly on the oval track market. Could this big push for the Grand-Am Series be their attempt to gain a monopoly on road racing in the USA? By luring everyone into Grand-Am other USA based road racing series suffer and eventually wither and die. They have even managed to lure many manufacturers into the Grand-Am while other series are losing them or are having a hard time gaining new ones. The full court press is on and much to their credit, the France family does things right. TV deals are struck early the year before, they have a business plan, they execute with precision, they adequately staff the effort, manufacturers, teams and drivers see a clear picture of the future. The same can't be said for other racing organizations in the USA. Some haven't even finalized their 2005 race schedule and TV deal leaving teams unsponsored and teetering on the brink of collapse.
Champ Car not on Ford’s radar screen? We are now headed toward the middle part of January. Everyone is preparing for their 2005 season, yet except for layoffs and staff jumping ship, there is hardly any news in Champ Car land. Last we heard Ford wanted to renew for three years with Champ Car, but OWRS wanted to do a 1-year renewal. Ford still has not renewed for 2005 and if Dan Davis can be believed, Champ Car may not be on their radar screen. He was asked the following question today at Daytona while watching the Rolex 24 practice and gave no indication that they were committed to Champ Car whatsoever.
IN THE LAST FEW MONTHS JAGUAR HAS PULLED OUT OF FORMULA ONE, SO DOES THAT NECESSARILY MEAN THAT FORD IS CHANGING ITS OVERALL RACING STRATEGY AND PERHAPS PLUGGING SOME OF THAT MONEY INTO MULTIMATIC? "I don't know what the number was, but I got none of it. Whatever they were spending on those programs, those programs were run not as North American programs. I'm funded in North America and Ford Division pays my bills as part of their marketing effort. They're completely separate programs with completely separate budgets. North America runs our program to help our sales and help sell products and services. There's no change to the North American program at all. We're committed to take care of NASCAR, we're committed to Grand Am, we committed to USAC and we're committed to NHRA Funny car. That's been our program and that continues to be our program. I guess the only thing I will say about budgets and efforts is that where we choose to race, we will be competitive. We will do what it takes to be competitive, whether that's technology or money or whatever it takes, we will be competitive. The only thing I can really tell you is that where we come to race you can count on us being championship capable. That's sort of what we're made of and that's what Ford Division is made of, and that's what we'll deliver."
Changes afoot at Ganassi RacingUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today as our moles deep within the Ganassi organization were spot on. Papis has left the team and Century Mortgage has signed on with driver Cort Wagner, who brought the sponsorship with him as a ride-buyer. See Hot News page for Ganassi announcement. 12/15/04 Max Papis is leaving the team with which he won this year’s Daytona Prototype crown. The Italian is parting company with the Lexus backed Ganassi squad because of his links with General Motors. He already races its Chevrolet Corvettes in the American Le Mans Series and is tipped to make a switch to a Pontiac team in the 2005 Grand-Am series. Autosport Magazine12/01/04 Our moles deep inside the Ganassi Racing organization tell us that Cort Wagner will drive one of their Lexus powered Prototype cars next year with backing from Century Mortgage. Wagner drove GT3 this past year for the Racers Group. No word on who will team with Wagner, but Kelly Collins' name came up as one possibility. In Chip's other Daytona prototype will be Scott Pruett and either Luis Diaz or Jimmy Morales with Mexican sponsorship. Word on the street is that Scott Pruett's teammate this year, Max Papis, will become a works GM driver in 2005 and to look for him in the powerful Corvette team in the ALMS and at LeMans.....among other things. Mark C.
Office Depot to sponsor No. 99 Rumor has it that on Tuesday, January 11, 2005 in Daytona Beach, FL at Daytona International Raceway, Roush Racing will make an announcement regarding a new primary sponsor (Office Depot?) for the #99 Roush Racing Ford in 2005. The announcement will be made following the completion of Cup practice on Tuesday afternoon at approximately 5:20pm/et in the media center. There will also be an unveiling of the new paint scheme. Roush Racing PR
IRL races on radio Rumor has it that the IRL may sign on with a satellite radio provider for 2005. While the league has not finalized a deal yet, it is almost assured that either XM or Sirius will be carrying IRL races in 2005. With both services already represented in the IRL, it will be interesting to see which way they go. XM has a relationship with Andretti Green Racing, and Sirius is connected to Penske Racing.
Champ Car TV deal in EuropeUPDATE #5 See Hot News page on Eurosport 2 announcement we talked about below. 12/09/04 See Hot News page for official announcement on the Eurosport deal. 12/07/04 AutoRacing1.com has some good news for European Champ Car race fans. We hear the Eurosport deal was negotiated for Champ Car by Jacques Kremer, the former General Manager of Eurosport. Because of his relationship with them, the company will give Champ Car a fair shake this time. All races that can be live, will be live in each European country in their native language. A very large majority of the races will be live on Eurosport. The ones that can't be live for time zone reasons or because of a prior conflict, will be shown on Eurosport 2, which is like ESPN 2 in the USA. Eurosport 2 will also carry a 30 minute qualifying highlight show each Saturday of a race weekend as well as a 30-minute race highlight show during the week. In addition to that, deals are being made with terrestrial channels in Europe to show the race highlights. One example would be Sport Italia in Italy that reaches 15 million homes. In Spain, the big sports channel will include a 3 to 4 min. race report on Sunday nights during their regular sports report hour. These sort of deals are all in addition to Eurosport. We expect Champ Car to announce more details of this vastly superior (vs. 2004) European coverage in the coming weeks. Mark C.12/06/04 Eurosport is the most widely available channel in Europe, reaching over 95 million homes and 250 million viewers in 54 countries. The station claims that over 96% of its viewers can watch their favorite sports in their native language, a key point for Champ Car, something it did not get this year with Moteurs TV. 12/04/04 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today with Eurosport announcing they will broadcast all Champ Car races in 2005. 11/27/04 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, We wait for the Champ Car TV deal for 2005. Especially we are interested in coverage in Europe. Do you have any news? Alexander Besserer, Germany Dear Alexander, We heard that Eurosport was an option. While Eurosport is by no means perfect (change around broadcast times, tape delay some stuff, etc.), it does provide coverage in all European countries (Eurosport UK and Eurosport). Certainly having individual TV deals in each European country would be preferable, especially if they are with terrestrial TV stations, however, Champ Car has failed miserably in the past when they tried to do that because a few countries get great coverage and all the rest get nothing. Until such time as Champ Car has enough staff or a consultant to negotiate a TV deal in each and every European country, we doubt they can do better than Eurosport. More racing fans get Eurosport in their homes in Europe than stations such as Moteurs TV, which although available via satellite, not as many people get it. Mark C.
2006 NASCAR Monte Carlo Spied! NASCAR drivers Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton were on hand at the LA Auto Show yesterday to introduce the all-new 2006 Chevy Monte Carlo that will soon be submitted to NASCAR for approval for the 2006 season.
Ferrari/Maserati to enter Grand-Am/NASCARUPDATE #4 The latest word from Italy is that the NASCAR teams are sitting up and taking notice of some of the engine technology which is available now in Modena, Italy, and that High Performance Engineering, a company run by Piero Ferrari (Enzo's son) is to be developing engines for one of the NASCAR teams in 2005. It is not clear which teams are involved but with engine development largely in the hands of the automobile manufacturers Dodge, Chevrolet and Ford it is likely that the work will be done for one of them. The most likely connection is with Chevrolet as there are links between General Motors and Fiat. HPE is independent of FIAT but works for both Ferrari and Maserati, doing high-performance engine development work. HPE is owned by Piero Ferrari but the Ducati company has a 40% share of the business. Grandprix.com01/04/05 Picchio put out a press release today that stated it would be entering into Grand American competition in conjunction with Rafanelli. No powerplant was announced, nor were any drivers announced. They are heavily modifying the stock DP car to bring up to proper race car standards. Can this be the connection to the rumored Ferrari or Maserati engine? The photo to the right came with the press release.
Press Release (as worded in broken English from Italy): Picchio and Rafanelli concluded an agreement to take part to some competitions of the American series Grand-Am. The car that will hit the track is the evolution of the Daytona Prototype DP2, on whose project several interventions and improvements have been made by the engineering team.
Picchio is appraising different options for power plants and they don't exclude also to get a new propeller, already provided in the list of engines approved by Grand-Am, but that no competitors have ever brought in races. Top Italian drivers will be favorite for driving duties because the program provides the development to be effected in Italy. This way, the great experience of Rafanelli's technicians mixed to Picchio's engineering and design resources, will allow the new cars to reach the best performances.
Differently from the existing cars in America, that Picchio doesn't recognize as its own since they were assembled by G&W, the third sample of the series has entirely been assembled in the factory of Ancarano and more than 70 changes have been realized on this prototype in comparison to the others already built. The front aerodynamics, the air intakes and the airbox are totally new. Picchio also provides power steering as a basic feature and the kinematic behavior of suspensions has been revised and optimized to adapt them to the new Hoosier tires which lately replaced Goodyear in Grand-Am competitions.
November Press Release from the team: Picchio recently announced that they are building another Prototype and will also be making plans to enter the Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona. The Picchio chassis participated in a handful of races in 2004 and campaigned the entire season in 2003. In the Picchio workshop at the moment there is a DP ready for delivery. GM Di Pietrantonio, asked about future 2005 programs in Grand-Am Series, says: "We are actually waiting to decide what engine must be installed in the car. We have many contacts going on and if we have a positive result we'll be in 2005 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona with our Daytona Prototype and top notch drivers." And what about the rest of the season? "During the season we'll enter the competitions with a second Daytona Prototype. We'd like to create an 'antenna' in the United States and we are currently selecting partners which are able to manage a spare warehouse and assistance during the races."
01/04/05 Other sources tell us that the Ferrari effort is really for their Maserati line of cars and that the engine has been under development for quite some time waiting for a team to adopt it, possibly helping to fund its completion. 01/03/05 AutoRacing1.com sources tell us the Ferrari son is Piero Lardi (now Piero Ferrari) the Vice President at Ferrari. He was the benefactor of the Ferrari 333 Sports Car program and loves sports car racing. The work is not being done at Ferrari but one of their long term contractors. It is a Grand-Am study done for a paying customer. 01/02/05 LMSR reports that they have been told that a son of Enzo Ferrari is working on a NASCAR powerplant....and a NASCAR team has boys in Modena helping with the project...and the source is supposedly 110% reliable. Hmm.....could they really mean Grand-Am as we see no connection between Ferrari and NASCAR. NASCAR fans don't buy Ferraris.
Glock and perhaps Doornbos to drive for JordanUPDATE The reports that Doornbos might drive for Jordan have turned out to be false. 01/06/05 According to Grandprix.com, Timo Glock will benefit to the tune of $14m from the DHL Speed Academy while Holland's Robert Doornbos is tipped as the other driver and will probably bring around $7m to the Jordan team. An additional $2m will come from the third driver although there is not yet any word on who this might be.
NASCAR to overhaul provisionals NASCAR's controversial provisional system could be getting a major overhaul. Spokesman Mike Zizzo said NASCAR officials are finalizing a plan in which the top 35 drivers in the points standings would be guaranteed starting spots in races. The remaining eight starting spots would go to the fastest qualifiers not in the top 35 in points. Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A1 GP still looking for USA venue The new A1 GP winter series is still looking for a USA venue and one track that has warm enough weather in the USA to host the series is Laguna Seca, who has lost their Champ Car race. Would any fans show up to watch, however? No, because that series is of no interest to USA race fans.
South America - One approved, one to go?UPDATE #17 The legislative vote in Buenos Aires won't happen until February now we hear. Their Congress is on summer recess and won't return until the first week in February. We are still being told a positive vote for the race is in the works. September 11th is still the date. Mark C.12/23/04 The legislative session could not take place on Tuesday due to a major problem with the garbage people (strike, protest, etc.) in Buenos Aires, hence still no decision on the race. The session is being rescheduled. Stay tuned..... 12/20/04 AutoRacing1.com sources in South America inform us that final legislative approval for the Buenos Aires race to proceed should happen Tuesday night and we should get confirmation Wednesday morning. The inaugural Grand Prix of Buenos Aires race is penciled in for September 11, 2005 we hear. Mark C.12/13/04 According to this SPEEDTV article, Emerson Fittipaldi reveals that a meeting with Champ Car representatives will happen tomorrow at his Sao Paulo offices, with the focus now being on bringing the series to Interlagos in 2006. 12/09/04 In this Edmonton Journal article Paul Tracy mentions the possibility that two new South American races could soon be announced. 12/08/04 Rumor has it that Emerson Fittipaldi was on Brazilian TV Monday saying there will be a "Brazilian GP of CART" in 2005, most likely in Rio. He showed a new calendar including Australia, Rio and Korea. See other rumor that says Argentina was given a tentative September date by Champ Car. If so, Rio could perhaps be penciled in alongside. See preliminary 2005 calendar, but Las Vegas might be a problem then. 11/05/04 We spoke to the designer of the track, Ron Dickson, who told us it would be 1.7 to 2.0 miles in length. "We are evaluating the length of the track and the cost vs. the return we can deliver for the promoter," said Dickson. We go through a similar evaluation with all tracks." 11/05/04 We are hearing that the Buenos Aires street circuit may only be 1.5 miles long. Hopefully that is not the case as the series does not need yet another Mickey Mouse track. What makes us doubt that the 1.5-mile Buenos Aires circuit is only 1.5 miles is the fact that Ron Dickson's D3 Motorsports designed it and usually they put together a reasonable layout. Mark C.11/04/04 According to our South American sources, the Buenos Aires street race has gained government approval from the executive branch and will be run tentatively in 2005 between Long Beach and Monterrey, Mexico. No official confirmation from Champ Car yet. Now it remains to be seen if Brazil will get a race in time for 2005. 11/02/04 We checked with our sources on the Buenos Aires race again today. Everything is progressing as planned and approvals are getting closer. Support is strong and the organizers are confident that this event will be one of Champ Car's biggest. Remember that something around 90% of the population of Argentina live in and around Buenos Aires. As for Brazil, approval of that race may still be as much as two months away, hence we expect to hear that Buenos Aires has been added to the 2005 Champ Car schedule irrespective of whether Brazil gets its approvals. Ideally, the two races will be run back-to-back. Mark C.10/29/04 We checked with some of our sources and the holdup with the Argentina race being announced is the approvals needed through the local government. The process is just taking longer than anticipated, but should be done in the next week or two which would allow that race to be announced. The Argentina race could be done standalone and the possible dates are early May (1st or 8th), September 11th, or November, after Mexico City. In Brazil there are indeed two possibilities, the one Emerson Fittipaldi is involved with at Interlagos, and another in Rio de Janeiro. In order for Interlagos to work, the race would have to happen in November, after the Mexico City race on November 6th. There are two open weekends before the USA's Thanksgiving weekend, November 13th and 20th. Brazil and Argentina could run on back-to-back weekends on those two dates to close out the season, but that puts the teams away from their families just before the holiday. Doable? Yes. Would it get approved? Perhaps. The other issue in all this is whether Champ Car wants the season finale in Mexico City. If that is non-negotiable, then Interlagos looks doubtful for 2005, but Rio could still happen. If the Rio organizer can get their deal done, that makes it much better for everyone. Then it's possible to run Buenos Aires and Rio on back-to-back weekends in the gaping hole between Long Beach and Monterrey. The weather is good in Brazil and Argentina in late April/early May and that would allow Champ Car to plug the ridiculously big hole in the schedule. If Argentina and Brazil organizers (one or both) approach Champ Car with that proposal, we believe they are likely to get immediate acceptance. Mark C.10/29/04 We are not sure what Fittipaldi is thinking when he says he would like to have a Champ Car race 3 to 4 weeks after next year's Brazilian GP F1 race at Interlagos on September 25, 2005. That simply is not going to happen. Three weeks after that date Champ Car will be racing in Ansan, South Korea and fours weeks after that date in Surfers Paradise, Australia. The only place for Brazil and Argentina to fit in the schedule would be either in March, before Long Beach, or in the 42 day gaping hole between Long Beach (April 10th) and Monterrey, Mexico (May 22nd). There is another gaping hole between Montreal (August 28th) and Las Vegas (September 24th), though that hole might be plugged with a September 4th race if Vancouver is reinstated. While it is possible to split Argentina and Brazil, putting Argentina on March 20th as was originally thought, and Brazil in September, but that is unlikely because of the extra transportation costs both events would incur if they went standalone. The way we see it, Argentina and Brazil will happen in March or April (in the first gaping hole) on back-to-back weekends, and our sources tell us that deciding on the venue in Brazil is really the issue holding up Argentina being announced. Apparently Emmo's idea of staging a race at Interlagos 3 or 4 weeks after the F1 race was an 11th hour pie-in-the-sky idea that won't materialize. There are other possible opportunities in Brazil, one of which is in or around Rio de Janeiro. Mark C.10/26/04 Teo Jose, Champ Car's announcer on Brazil's RedeTV!, reports today on his website that Emerson Fittipaldi is in advanced negotiations with the city of Sao Paulo to bring a Champ Car race to the Interlagos circuit "four weeks at the most" after the F1 event - so that Champ Car can use the structure set for Bernie's posse, lowering the costs for the city. Jose expects the final, 17-race schedule to be released by mid-November, with the Buenos Aires race being a done deal, and a good possibility of a return of Champ Car racing to England, either at Silverstone or Donington Park. Cassio Cortes10/25/04 Celso Itibere, a respected auto racing columnist at the 'O Globo' newspaper, the biggest Brazilian newspaper, and also a Champ Car commentator on Rede TV, the network that broadcasts the races in Brazil, has this to say in this O Globo article, (loosely translated) "Next year, the Interlagos circuit will host, in September, the Brazilian F1 Grand Prix, and, possibly three weeks later, another important race: the Brazilian Champ Car Grand Prix". "The American series, which will also have Cristiano da Matta, who is almost sure to race with Newman-Haas, is also negotiating for a race in Buenos Aires, one week before or after the Brazilian race" We did hear that the Argentina race could move to the fall, so this report may be true, but we still think a March date for both races would be better. 10/18/04 AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that it is pretty certain that Champ Car will indeed race in Argentina and Brazil in 2005. The two contracts are in the final negotiation stage. Apparently there are two excellent opportunities in Brazil and both are advancing, similar to Edmonton and Calgary in Alberta, Canada, and one will soon land the contract. It is expected that both races will be back-to-back and probably be at the beginning of the season, but could also be at the end. 10/06/04 Yesterday Joseph Chrnelich (pictured right) vice president of development and planning of Champ Car was visiting Mexico City to see the track and work with OCESA towards the season closer. He talked about next year's calendar. He said that in the next couple of weeks the 16 races (minimum) that make up the 2005 season will be announced, but that they will only be announced after all 16 contracts are signed. He said that Brazil, Argentina and one Asian country (read that China) will probably be on the schedule. So it looks like the Brazil rumor is picking up a bit of steam, hence we have upgraded it to 'strong.' Joe also commented on the Ford Cosworth situation - "We will have a deal made with the new owners of Cosworth as soon as the sale is finalized. We own the motors we have, so everything is okay." Jose Arrambide reporting from Mexico10/01/04 Latest word that we got was that Rio de Janeiro, Brazil REALLY wants a Champ Car race and is doing everything it can. However, we are still hearing it's very unlikely to happen before 2006. There is a group representing Champ Car that has spent quite some time recently in Brazil trying to put a deal together. Today is October 1st, hence Champ Car has missed yet another deadline for announcing the 2005 schedule. First it was August, then it was by the end of September. Paul Gentilozzi said it would be 2 to 3 weeks a week ago. Therefore, we should see an announcement next week or the week after. Don't hold your breath, as we hear four races on the provisional schedule we saw are still up in the air. Mark C. 08/14/04 With all the talk about Buenos Aires being added to the 2005 Champ Car schedule focus has been taken off of the Brazil rumors. However, we hear a race in Brazil is certainly still in the works. We shall see if it gets done for 2005.
Buenos Aires race dateUPDATE #3 The legislative vote in Buenos Aires won't happen until February now we hear. Their Congress is on summer recess and won't return until the first week in February. We are still being told a positive vote for the race is in the works. September 11th is still the date. Mark C.12/07/04 Things have changed and Buenos Aires has been given a date in September we hear. Final Legislative approval will hopefully happen in Buenos Aires later this week, after which the race can be announced. No word on Brazil and right now this race will be a standalone event. A date in September does not bode well for Laguna Seca making it back on the calendar. 11/18/04 While in London, AutoRacing1.com staff again heard Buenos Aires is looking pretty certain to happen between LB and Monterrey. We also hear Brazil is getting closer to happening as well. 11/06/04 Word in the Champ Car paddock is that the rumored Buenos Aires, Argentina race will be inserted in the calendar right after Long Beach.
Mexican drivers eye Champ CarUPDATE OCESA put out a press release today stating that Michel Jourdain Jr. would be moving to NASCAR. The press release also said Mario Dominguez, Roberto Gonzalez and Rodolfo Lavin will return to Champ Cars and Memo Rojas will probably move up to Champ Cars, making the count back to four Mexicans. 01/06/05 With Michel Jourdain Jr. now headed to NASCAR, a number of Mexican driver names have cropped up as possible new additions to the Champ Car paddock in 2005 - David Martinez Leon, Memo Rojas, Homero Richards or Rafael Martinez are out there knocking on doors. It will be important for Champ Car to replace Jourdain to protect their Mexican races.
Jourdain to NASCAR, Champ Car loses another MexicanUPDATE #12 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement. See our Home page. 01/06/05 The same company that does Kenny Wallace's website registered www.MichelJourdainJr.com yesterday.....more evidence they will be teammates in 2005. 01/05/05 The rumor mill in Mexico says that it's official, Jourdain to ppc Racing! Jourdain will drive alongside Kenny Wallace for the ppc team all next season in the NASCAR Busch Series. John Andretti will drive their Nextel Cup car. No official announcement yet though, so...... We also hear that Roberto Gonzalez may not have a ride so Champ Car is down to just two Mexicans, Mario Dominguez and Rodolfo Lavin, for 2005 and Mario will be off to F1 in 2006, at which time Champ Car will have one Mexican driver. 01/05/05 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, It finally starts to look like things are getting better for Champ Car and then they go and lose Michel Jourdain to NASCAR. When are the 3 Amigos going to learn that fans pay to see their heroes and it's all about the drivers? Stop taking the paying drivers and dish out whatever you have to if it means keeping the drivers that fans turn out to see.
Fernandez goes to IRL. Jourdain goes to NASCAR. Diaz goes to Grand Am. Well that leaves Champ Car with only one legitimate Mexican driver capable of winning in Dominguez and all the talk is that he's going to F1. If that happens, there will be Champ Car, NASCAR and Grand-Am races in Mexico -- and the bigger names for the Mexican fans will be the ones in the NASCAR and Grand-Am series.
It doesn't take long to erode a fan base that thrives on seeing Mexican drivers capable of winning in an economy that almost forces fans to make a choice. It's pretty much a given that Champ Car's attendance will take a hit with the addition of two more races in Mexico City. If they keep losing the drivers that the Mexican fans cheer for, it won't be long before Champ Car is #3 in Mexico and the series loses two key events. Richard G. Springfield OH01/05/05 This rumor is getting close to going to 'fact' as all sources are saying Jourdain has agreed to race for ppc in the NASCAR Busch (Busch? What a step backward for his career) series. All that remains is for the ink to dry on the contract ....so the sources say. Jourdain, who got smoked by his teammate, the rookie AJ Allmendinger, last year in Champ Car may have felt he wasn't fast enough for Champ Car anymore, so to save his image he would move to NASCAR before anymore damage was done to his career by being outpaced by his teammate. We do not expect Jourdain to meet with much success in NASCAR, but we hear the pay is good. This move will help NASCAR establish a presence in Mexico as they look to establish a foothold. Regardless, the loss of Jourdain is a blow to Champ Car after it lost Adrian Fernandez to the IRL. Expect a further drop in Champ Car attendance at both Monterrey and Mexico City in 2005 unless another Mexican driver is found who can wheel a Champ Car to the front. 01/04/05 Today on Sirius Speedway (Sirius Satellite Radio) they had Greg Pollix on, owner of ppc Racing and he said that Michel Jourdain will be one of his full time drivers this year in the Bush Series along with Kenny Wallace. The contracts are all but signed. And, according to an article in today's Mexican Newspaper Reforma, who spoke to him yesterday, Michel is in Charlotte working on some of the details on the ppc contract. He says that he is pretty close to signing, and might close the deal this week. As for Champ Car he says that he had offers from PKV Racing and from Forsythe, but they weren't quite as good. 01/03/05 Robin Miller reported on SPEED News last evening that Michel Jourdain will stay in Champ Car and has a big Mexican oil company behind him. We assume he means Pemex, per this rumor. Mark C.12/25/04 A little history info about Pemex. It's the only oil company in Mexico. In March of 1938, all foreign oil interests in Mexico were nationalized to the Mexican government. Therefore, March 18th is a national holiday. Mexicans are extremely proud of the fact that their country owns its own oil production. Mexicans would gladly pay more for national oil instead of opening up competition to foreign oil companies which would guarantee lower oil prices. Mexico’s oil is the peoples' oil and the money stays in the country.
The thought of selling Pemex to private foreign investors has tickled the minds of many Mexican political and economists. They know that if Pemex is privatized a huge load of their debt would be eliminated overnight. However, the thought of not having control of its own oil is sacrilege. It would be un-nationalistic and that would hurt the ego of Mexicans throughout the nation.
Since NAFTA, many national services and companies (e.g. Telmex, Banamex) have been privatized and Pemex remains one of the few government owned income generating assets that Mexicans would hate to see privatized.
12/08/04 According to the Mexican Reforma newspaper, Michel Jourdain received an offer last week from Forsythe and also had an offer from NASCAR's ppc Racing for 2005. Jourdain already tested ppc's NASCAR Busch Series car at Hickory Motor Speedway. Reforma quoted ppc’s owner Keith Barnwell: "We made him an offer and we hope to sign him soon. We're already looking at sponsors for Michel's program. We tested him, and we think he's very talented and skilled. Next step is getting him to drive our car in 2005." Champ Car's HVM (formerly Herdez) is also waiting for Jourdain's response. 11/29/04 AutoRacing1.com contacted the office of Michel Jourdain Jr. today regarding his rumored move to NASCAR. The spokesperson told AutoRacing1.com, "Michel has more than one and a half feet in NASCAR (a Mexican saying that means it’s a sure thing) , but the only thing stopping him is the respect and love he has for Champ Car. Michel is looking for enough sponsorship to still get a competitive ride in Champ Car for 2005. He does feels a little disappointed with the new owners of Champ Car, because they haven’t given him the support or recognition they have given other drivers like Paul Tracy, not taking into consideration he helped the series by staying in Champ Car when Rahal bolted out of the series at the start of 2004. He feels all alone, and now that he needs help to find a good team in Champ Car, he feels it is time for Champ Car to return the favor. Maybe Champ Car has not seen that they need Michel to keep the Mexican market interested. After Adrian left for the IRL, Michel and Mario Dominguez took the position of Mexican heroes. Perhaps NASCAR and Adrian realize that hence why they are interested in Michel so much." [Editor's Note: With Mario Dominguez about to sign with the Midland F1 team for 2006 (according to reports) and Michel Jourdain Jr. possibly headed to NASCAR, Champ Car could soon have zero Mexican drivers left, assuring both the Monterrey and Mexico City races will be ripe for failure. Champ Car has no one looking after their interests in Mexico as NASCAR and the IRL does, and if they are not careful, they will lose the market completely in a couple of years. The TV fiasco in Mexico this year, whereby only a few races were shown live or in their entirety, has opened major cracks in Champ Car's Mexican foundations. ] 11/24/04 This El Norte article says Gigante and Jourdain both prefer to stay in Champ Car and they are eyeing the possibility of Gigante taking over for Herdez as the primary sponsor of the now renamed HVM team. It does say that Jourdain is talking to Fernandez about running him in the Indy 500, but that all depends on the Champ Car schedule. We doubt it would work. Jourdain also has options in the NASCAR Busch series, and if not the entire series, then the Mexico City race only. "He would be starting from ground zero in NASCAR," stated Gigante's Javier Villa. Bottom line - Jourdain and Gigante will stay in Champ Car if he finds a competitive ride such as the HVM team, which, with Dominguez, would become "the Mexican team." They are looking for at least a 2-year deal. 11/24/04 The press conference was held today and Michel Jourdain stated that he has around 15 different options for next year and that he will make a decision in two weeks. Gigante said that they will not sponsor him at RuSPORT but will keep sponsoring Jourdain no matter what his decision is. Jourdain also said he is in talks with Fernandez Racing for the Indianapolis 500, but that his main concern is finding a competitive team, either in Champ Car, IRL or NASCAR. Will we see the IRL attempt to further erode Champ Car's business in Mexico by having Jourdain teamed with Fernandez in the IRL? Our sources say he's probably off to NASCAR though. Jose Arrambide reporting from Mexico11/23/04 AutoRacing1.com has learned that there will be a press conference tomorrow in Mexico City with Javier Villa from Gigante, and Michel Jourdain Jr. We hear that they will make a very important announcement and then they will answer some questions. Could this be the “Gigante is pulling out of racing, we wish Michel all the luck in the world,” announcement or "we are taking Michel to NASCAR" announcement? 11/23/04 We are now hearing that Michel Jourdain might switch to NASCAR in 2005. If so, we suspect his career just took a nosedive (moving from top series to development series) but it will help NASCAR's gate in Mexico City next year. We saw Christian Fittipaldi ruin his career making a similar move. 11/23/04 Rumor has it that Michel Jourdain Jr. may land at the HVM team (formerly Herdez) and may be bringing a Mexican beer sponsor with him. The team lost Herdez so if this rumor is true, the team becomes an all-Mexican team with a much needed new sponsor. We hear that Ryan Hunter-Reay will land elsewhere.
SCCA Runoffs to move The Topeka-based Sports Car Club of America has scheduled a news conference for 1 p.m. today amid speculation that it was bringing a major racing event to Heartland Park Topeka. A statement from SCCA says the nation's largest active member-based motorsports organization "will make a major announcement impacting the entire state of Kansas, specifically Topeka." Steve Johnson, SCCA president and chief executive officer; Gov. Kathleen Sebelius; and Mayor James McClinton are scheduled to attend. Last fall, the Topeka City Council approved spending $5 million to improve the road track at Heartland Park. Raymond Irwin, owner of Heartland Park, said at the time Heartland Park would bid to acquire a three-year contract that would begin in 2006 to host the SCCA National Championship Runoffs, which attract more than 700 drivers. Neither officials from SCCA nor Heartland Park would comment Wednesday on whether the event was moving to Topeka from the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, where it has been for 11 years. Capital-Journal
Audi and Chevy to make ALMS announcements We have it on good word that both Audi and Corvette will be making announcements that pertain to the ALMS at the upcoming Detroit Auto Show (Sun/Mon). We are told that Audi is going to announce its race teams for the upcoming season, while Corvette is unveiling its C6-R which will go racing in ALMS this year. Ron Fellows will be in attendance at the press conference. The Corvette release (of which we have an advance copy) notes that this is "the best sports car we have ever built." We think it's interesting that Corvette thinks/realizes that in order to run in the ALMS is takes the best sports car they've ever built. A little different scenario than other race series in the USA.
Cocaine scandal to rock F1UPDATE A week of wild speculation about the use of drugs in Formula 1 was brought to a swift end on Thursday when motor racing's governing body confirmed to autosport.com that no evidence of foul play was found during its 2004 doping tests. Amid the backdrop of wild claims made by a former Ferrari doctor that cocaine use was widespread in F1, an FIA source confirmed that the results of the drug tests it conducted last season indicated that no problem had been found at all. "Last year's test were all fine and we are happy that no driver has failed a drug test in Formula 1," said the source. The FIA conducted random tests after Saturday qualifying at selected events last year – with a selection of drivers chosen to take the tests. Autosport.com12/29/04 According to ex-Ferrari doctor Benigno Bartoletti in an interview in Italian magazine Quattroruote, 1/3 of Formula One drivers use cocaine to sharpen their driving skills. The doctor claims that for the first 90 minutes after taking cocaine the driver experiences increased concentration and motor skills, after which the chances of having an accident from the effects of cocaine are increased significantly. The doctor also warns of the long-term negative health effects of using cocaine. These claims are unsubstantiated because no F1 driver has failed drug tests for cocaine that we are aware of.
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory Champ Car has managed to do it again, snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. They appear to have the patent on that process these days. Just when it appeared they were turning the tide after just getting by in 2004, they have managed to totally bungle their TV deal. While a deal could have been signed with CBS and SPEED four months ago and all races shown live, now that they have managed to procrastinate long enough CNBC has told them to take a hike and SPEED has already sold all their inventory for Sunday afternoons to NASCAR, ALMS, Grand-Am, etc., meaning if they do go crawling back to SPEED begging to air their races (the ones not on CBS or NBC) the races will have to be tape delayed. Champ Car left SPEED hanging while they were trying to do a deal with CNBC. This has left SPEED with another bad taste in their mouth for Champ Car, and we suspect Champ Car is going to have to pay a hefty sum of money now for SPEED to let them buy time on their network. They can probably get a good rate if the races are aired, say 2 AM on Monday mornings between infomercials. We also hear Champ Car is over in England as we speak begging Autocourse to produce the annual yearbook for the 2004 Champ Car season after Autocourse had decided not to publish one this year. A Champ Car version wasn't even listed on their order form, but the IRL and F1 versions were. Those two are already published and Champ Car still doesn't have someone to write theirs. Perhaps it can be delayed long enough to make it a 2004 and 2005 season double issue....a first in the industry. It is now January, the 2005 race schedule has yet to be finalized, the TV deal is still in limbo, most teams have not been able to sign or announce sponsorship because the TV deal was so late in coming, driver contracts are in limbo, they have lost another popular Mexican driver to the oval track cartel, SPIKE TV does not want Champ Car back we are told, and just this afternoon we heard NBC is fit to be tied with some of the shenanigans going on in the production end and may cancel their TV deal (after CNBC, an NBC affiliate, told them no). 2005 is shaping up to be another typical year for Champ Car.
Waltrip to finally hang it upUPDATE ''I'll run the Martinsville (Va.) spring race … and more than likely it will be my last race,'' Waltrip said last week. ''It's just so difficult to run two or three races a year and it's a distraction to the guys (who maintained Waltrip's truck along with the team's full-time entry driven by David Reutimann).'' Waltrip will continue to run the team and field Toyotas for Reutimann. 01/01/05 Darrell Waltrip plans to run the NASCAR Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway in the spring. That's a make-up race. Qualifying got rained out in October, and Waltrip didn't get to race at Martinsville. DW has a brand new truck. The Toyota Racing Development crew took it home, covered it up the one DW was to run at the Oct Martinsville race and will bring it back out in April. DW says that more than likely, it will be his last race. So DW will probably run that Martinsville spring race and unless he happens to win that race, that will probably be his last one. Excerpts from FoxSports
Egypt to build track The construction of a new circuit in Northern Egypt should open up the prospect of a Middle Eastern Formula 3 Championship. Plans for the 1.4-mile Ghazala Bay track have been approved by the FIA and work is expected to begin soon. If all goes as scheduled, the venue should be ready to stage its first race early in 2006. As an FIA ‘category-three’ track, Ghazala Bay will be able to host F3 and touring car races. The man behind the project, Medhat Badawi – a successful businessman and the boss of the Egyptian Karting Club – has spoken to Macau F3 promoter Barry Bland about a possible race. Autosport Magazine
Fuji preparing for F1 bid The Toyota-owned Fuji track, which has been substantially redeveloped over the past 12 months, has been handed two slots on this year’s Formula Nippon calendar. Sepang in Malaysia, which hosted a race in 2004, has been dropped from the schedule, which starts at Motegi on April 3. Autosport Magazine [Editor's Note: This and other races at Fuji over the next two years will prepare it for a bid for the Japanese GP. Whether the Honda owned Suzuka track keeps its F1 date and there are two Japanese GPs, remains to be seen, but rest assured Toyota will line Bernie's pockets with gold in an attempt to land a F1 race at Fuji.]
Franchitti eyes Rolex seat IRL driver Dario Franchitti is closing in on a deal to contest next month’s Daytona 24 Hours with his brother, Marino. The Scottish pair are in the final stages of negotiation to line up in one of three works Crawford Daytona Prototypes entered in the opening round of the Grand-Am Sportscar Series. The deal should be sealed in time for the Franchittis to try a Pontiac-powered Crawford DP03 in this weekend’s official pre-race test. Sportscar regular Marino said: “Dario and I have always wanted to share a car together and we got onto it last year. I’m getting on a plane to go to Daytona this week, so my fingers are crossed that our names will be on the side of a car when we get there.” The Franchittis would likely team up with Dario’s Andretti Green Racing teammate Dan Wheldon and Crawford regular Milka Duno. The team’s ‘lead’ car will be driven by Andy Wallace, Tony Stewart and Jan Lammers. The two AGR drivers are set to become part of a growing roster of IRL stars to sign up to race at Daytona. Ganassi racers Scott Dixon and Darren Manning have already been confirmed in one of their team’s trio of Riley-Lexus MkXIs and now a third AGR driver, Bryan Herta, and last year’s Indy 500 winner, Buddy Rice, have announced deals to do the US enduro. Herta will make his Daytona debut in a works Pontiac-powered Doran. He will share the car with NASCAR legends Terry and Bobby Labonte and ex-Formula 1 racer Jan Magnussen. Autosport Magazine
Ferrari threatens to boycott 2 races Ferrari is threatening to boycott the British and French Grands Prix unless it gets a greater share of the $30m (£15.8m) offered to the teams for attending the races – the 18th and 19th events to be confirmed on the calendar. Sources suggest the team wants a greater share of the money than the others because it believes its presence is of greater value. Autosport Magazine
Red Bull or Midland could get Ferrari powerUPDATE There continue to be whispers that there may be a change of management coming up at Red Bull racing although at the moment there is no clear picture of who might be changing roles and who might be coming in. At the same time we are picking up more and more suggestions that Red Bull is shopping around looking for an engine supply deal in 2006. We have heard that the team has been talking to Toyota, Honda and BMW and we have even heard hints that the Austrians are looking at the possibility of funding its own V8 engine program. The switch from 3-litre V10s to 2.4-litre V8s in 2006 will provide the opportunity for newcomers start a program on a par with the big guns of the sport. Grandprix.com11/26/04 According to Italian sources Ferrari approached Red Bull's Dieter Mateschitz to discuss the possibility of supplying engines to the team he just bought from Ford in 2006. In addition, Midland F1 team owner Alexander Shnaider has also stated his interest in having Ferrari engines for his newly formed team.
HVM team signs primary sponsorUPDATE #5 We are hearing that HVM did get the Pemex sponsorship deal but it does not include Jourdain Jr. He is toast (NASCAR bound). See other rumor on Jourdain. 01/04/05 Hold the presses, In what could be a major blow, Champ Car may have lost Jourdain to NASCAR. According to an article in today's Mexican Newspaper Reforma, who spoke to him yesterday, Michel is in Charlotte working on some of the details on the ppc contract. He says that he is pretty close to signing, and might close the deal this week. As for Champ Car he says that he had offers from PKV Racing and from Forsythe, but they weren't quite as good. 01/03/05 Robin Miller reported on SPEED News last evening that Michel Jourdain will stay in Champ Car and has a big Mexican oil company behind him. We assume he means Pemex, per this rumor. Mark C.12/25/04 A little history info about Pemex. It's the only oil company in Mexico. In March of 1938, all foreign oil interests in Mexico were nationalized to the Mexican government. Therefore, March 18th is a national holiday. Mexicans are extremely proud of the fact that their country owns its own oil production. Mexicans would gladly pay more for national oil instead of opening up competition to foreign oil companies which would guarantee lower oil prices. Mexico’s oil is the peoples' oil and the money stays in the country.
The thought of selling Pemex to private foreign investors has tickled the minds of many Mexican political and economists. They know that if Pemex is privatized a huge load of their debt would be eliminated overnight. However, the thought of not having control of its own oil is sacrilege. It would be un-nationalistic and that would hurt the ego of Mexicans throughout the nation.
Since NAFTA, many national services and companies (e.g. Telmex, Banamex) have been privatized and Pemex remains one of the few government owned income generating assets that Mexicans would hate to see privatized.
12/25/04 Where does Pemex rank in terms of world oil production? What about the other oil companies involved in racing? 1. Saudi Arabia 9.9 Million Barrels per Day (MBD) 2. United States 8.8 3. Russia 8.5 4. Iran 3.9 5. Mexico 3.8 (Pemex) 6. China 3.4 7. Norway 3.3 8. Canada 9. United Arab Emirates 10. Venezuela 11. Britain 12. Kuwait 13. Nigeria 14. Algeria 15. Brazil 1.8 (Petrobras) 16. Libya 17. Indonesia 18. Iraq 19. Kazakhstan 20. Qatar 21. Angola 22. Argentina 23. Egypt 24. India 25. Malaysia 0.8 (Petronas) 26. Oman 27. Australia 28. Colombia 29. Syria 30. Yemen 31. Ecuador 12/25/04 We are hearing that the Mexican fuel monopoly Pemex has signed to be the primary sponsor of the HVM team in 2005, which looks to be an all-Mexican team of Mario Dominguez, Michel Jourdain Jr. and possibly Roberto Gonzalez if they decide to run a third car. We also heard that Gigante would scale back their sponsorship due to financial woes but Tecate was looking to do something. The signing of Pemex, if true, will be welcome news because the Mexican sponsorship market for both Champ Car and the IRL has significantly fallen off recently. If you recall, Pemex was the old Brabham F1 sponsor (early 80's) when Hector Rebaque was Nelson Piquet's teammate. This would also be welcome news in light of the tragedy that befell the team this week when two crewmembers were killed in an auto accident while driving back from Mexico City with a show car. Mark C.
Grove to launch F1 sponsor Frank Williams' Oxfordshire-based F1 team will unveil a new sponsor on Thursday. The press is invited to a news conference in London, where - it is expected - the wraps will come off a $15.5m (per year) 'Royal Bank of Scotland' deal. Asked directly about the RBS speculation, a member at Grove replied: ''I obviously cannot reveal (that) at this stage.'' Williams' representative then said the FW27 and the 2005 driver line-up, including a race team-mate for Mark Webber, will be launched at Valencia (Spain) on the last day of January. [Editor's Note: See Hot News page for another big Williams sponsorship announcement.]
Did Schumacher buy a mansion? According to Italian paper La Provincia, Michael Schumacher gave himself a very nice birthday gift: a huge villa on the shore of Lake Como, in Italy (Photo of Villa to right by Ansa). This mansion, with an estimated worth of around 15 to 20-million Euros, was built in 1926 for Carlo Mantegazza. His son Giacomo put it on sale a few days ago. According to the same Italian paper, the villa had a long list of famous prospective buyers, including Brad Pitt, Kevin Costner and Bruce Springsteen. There is no confirmation of the final transaction to Michael Schumacher but Giacomo Mantegazza gave a mandate to real estate company Fiammetta Ltd to sell the property and the firm sold it to a customer that is strongly rumored to be none other than Michael Schumacher.
Nadeau to officially retire soon Nextel Cup driver Jerry Nadeau told MRN Radio/Sirius that he might never get back in a race car. The former No.01 U.S. Army Chevrolet driver was severely injured in a practice crash at the Richmond International Raceway in May 2003.
"I can't find the fire I used to have," said Nadeau, "and I'm getting sick of waiting for that light switch to turn on in my brain. My doctors say it could take another year for me to get everything back that I'm going to get, and while I feel like I'm getting better every day, I'm starting to face the fact that I might not be able to race for a living anymore."
The 32-year-old veteran of 177 Nextel Cup races needed to be cut out of his car after losing control between turns one and two and hitting the outside wall heavily during a Saturday practice session. He appeared motionless when he was removed from the vehicle and was later airlifted to the Medical College of Virginia. He suffered a severe head injury, a fractured left scapula and injuries to his lungs and ribs.
"I bumped my head pretty good in that wreck, and the doctors say if it happens again, I might not wake up this time" said Nadeau. "I'm not sure I want to take that chance. I have an 18-month old daughter now, and the last year and a half has given me a healthy dose of the big picture." Nadeau has one career win on his resume (Atlanta 2002) which he earned while driving for Rick Hendrick. Sports Ticker
Klien offered Red Bull contract The ITV article says, Christian Klien says he has been offered a Red Bull contract for 2005. Klien told broadcaster ORF that he had received a formal offer from the team – but that the contract did not specify whether he would get a race drive. Klien is competing with Vitantonio Liuzzi for the drive alongside David Coulthard, and there has been some suggestion that they may be asked to share the car. Red Bull have so far refused to comment on the speculation. Earlier, Klien revealed that he was hopeful the decision would go his way. He said: "Of course it would have been nice to find a contract for next season under the Christmas tree, but let us see. My birthday is in February. Maybe then? No, just kidding! Seriously, I have shown my best during the recent practices, tests and training and everyone seemed pleased and content. Now it's up to the team to decide. Hopefully the New Year will bring the decision in my favor." Klien said he would also relish the opportunity to work alongside Coulthard. He said: "I am happy about the news that David will join the team in 2005. I think he is a great guy, also very disciplined and fun to work with."
A1 Grand Prix filling F1 void [Editor's Note: With the new Superfund Series and this A1 GP series becoming true global series, how will Champ Car differentiate itself such that it can fill the void in the world demand for major motorsports events that F1 can't fill? With Champ Car contemplating a spec chassis and spec engines, they really are no different than the spec Superfund and A1 GP series. What the next Champ Car formula will be, slated for introduction in 2007, will define its place in the world order of things. ] A1 Grand Prix Championship is building up and we hear that the series will soon be ready announce an impressive calendar which will include 14 venues. The dates are expected to be between September 2005 and April 2006 and will be much more international than originally suggested. Our sources say that the first race will be taking place at Brands Hatch in England and then the series will head gradually to the warmer climates as the weather changes in Europe with stops in Estoril, Portugal, and Istanbul, Turkey. As the autumn continues the racing will move to Korea, Malaysia and Australia and there appear to be plans for a race on New Year's Day in Durban, South Africa. This will be followed by races in Brazil and Mexico and in February the series will have reached the United States, where there seem to be plans for a race on each coast, presumably one being in southern California and the other being in Florida before the series finishes off with a trio of events in Dubai, China and Japan.
The series recently increased its order of chassis and engines from 30 to 50. At the moment there are 13 countries which have signed up to be part of the series and negotiations of one sort or another are going on with another 19. This means that the field could consist of as many as 32 cars and it seems that some of the countries may run two cars in qualifying and then decide which drivers should race. Grandprix.com
Marco Andretti to make IRL debut Michael Andretti says the move up to Star Mazda makes 2005 a critical season for the racing ambitions of his 17-year-old son Marco, who has progressed nicely from go-karts through more advanced race cars. "This is a very important year for Marco, because the Star Mazda is an ultra, ultra competitive series," Michael Andretti said. "He's dominated and showed he can race every place he's raced so far. But here he's moving up into stiffer competition driving race cars that are more like our cars."
The Star racers feature 250 horsepower engines and provide more downforce and other more sophisticated technology than Marco's used to. "They're real tough to drive," Michael said, "so it's going to be good for him." At 17, Michael went from go-kart racing to earn an SCCA racing license and began competing in the then Formula Ford series.
He competed in Formula Ford and Super Vee series, where he won championships, debuting in CART Indy Car racing in 1983. He ran three races, starting at Las Vegas. He was 21 years old then. "I'm hoping in 2006 we can run him (Marco) in a couple of (IRL) races and attack it full season in 2007," Andretti said. "That would be the dream if everything goes right." Express-Times
Office Depot drops USOC in favor of NASCARUPDATE Office Depot this morning announced a multiyear NASCAR sponsorship, becoming the racing body's first official office products partner. Under the deal, Office Depot receives category exclusivity, race signage, advertising during NASCAR telecasts and use of the NASCAR logo in marketing efforts. Additionally, Office Depot plans to unveil a Nextel Cup team sponsorship later this month, and is planning on sponsoring a diversity initiative within the sport Office Depot. The Ft. Lauderdale SUN-SENTINEL reports that Office Depot "has dropped its [USOC] sponsorship" in favor of the NASCAR partnership. Office Depot VP/Marketing Strategy Tony Ueber said the deal will help the company “woo women, small business owners and minorities, all of whom have growing interest in auto racing” Ft. Lauderdale SUN-SENTINEL01/03/05 Takin' Care of Business is back for a third stint as Office Depot Inc.'s advertising jingle. Starting today, the Delray Beach[FL]-based office supply giant will launch a series of radio and television ads geared toward business customers, who account for more than 80% of the company's sales. Takin' Care of Business is part of a new marketing strategy that also includes a promotional partnership with NASCAR. Office Depot in February will begin touting its multiyear NASCAR deal, which will be the company's primary national sponsorship platform in 2005. Sponsorship activities include NASCAR displays in Office Depot's 900 stores nationwide and advertising during NASCAR race telecasts on NBC, Fox and TNT. Office Depot plans to unveil a NASCAR Nextel Cup sponsorship later this month. A recent survey of fans found that nearly three-quarters consciously buy products because of a company's relationship with NASCAR and that 44% of those who shop at other office supply stores would switch to Office Depot because of its affiliation with NASCAR. Palm Beach Post
Spencer to hook up with Shelmerdine Jimmy Spencer still has not been picked up by another Cup team – nor by a Busch or Trucks program – for a full-time ride in 2005. With few opportunities, Spencer may be relegated to driving for a second- or third-tier team, or may have to be content with occasional fill-in stints in Cup, Busch or Trucks. There have been rumors about Spencer driving on an occasional basis for No. 72 Kirk Shelmerdine, but those do not appear to have much substance behind them. Yahoo Sports
Toyota could leave F1 As they head into their fourth season of F1 with one of the biggest budgets, the Panasonic Toyota Racing team must finish on the podium at least once in 2005. "F1 has been harder than we expected, but that just means that it's a challenge worthy of our attentions,” said Akihiko Saito, Toyota Vice President. “However, we can't afford to keep going without getting better results. We have simply invested too much money in the project. Next year I demand a podium finish." Taking Saito by his word, if they don't get a podium in 2005 it does not pay for them to keep pumping money down the F1 rathole, which could mean they will quit.
ISC may have to build LRT in NY Staten Island, NY Borough President James Molinaro says he is still undecided about whether he supports the 80,000-seat NASCAR racetrack proposed for Bloomfield, but he said he was "not impressed" with a traffic plan for the project presented by International Speedway Corp. (ISC). "They have a lot more work to do," Molinaro said of the racetrack planners. "There were a lot of weaknesses in their presentation." Molinaro said he wants ISC to build a light-rail transit system here that can be used year-round, not just during NASCAR's three projected race weekends. "To me, that's a starting point," said Molinaro.
San Jose layout to be presented Rumor has it that a media conference will be held in San Jose on Thursday to present the final circuit layout for the San Jose Grand Prix. Drivers Jimmy Vasser and Rodolfo Lavin are expected to be on hand. How much will it change from the layout we published a few weeks ago?
Is Foyt team on last laps?UPDATE Larry Foyt is trying to put together a team to race in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2005. Foyt also hopes to race in Nextel Cup as Ken Schrader's teammate at BAM Racing if the team can find additional sponsorship. Dallas Morning News10/17/04 The CART super teams have put almost all of the original IRL teams out of business when they moved from the superior CART series to the IRL. AJ Foyt's team is one of the last of the original left standing. This KRT Live article says, A.J. Foyt doesn't like road racing and street racing, two things the IRL will do for the first time next season. Foyt also doesn't have a sponsor for 2005 in a league that costs at least $5 million to compete full time. And his driver, grandson A.J. Foyt IV, is in demand from some other teams. So is this the end of the line for the Texas racing legend? "No way," Foyt said. "We'll work it out somehow. If worse comes to worse, we'll just pass the hat in church."
"Anthony is staying here for now," A.J. said. "Larry would love to run in the IRL, but he can run well in NASCAR. I just didn't have the right people in place to help him with the Cup team we had." Foyt's critics say he doesn't have the right people to help Anthony in the IRL, a claim he strongly disputes. Foyt says Anthony needs more time under his tutelage, but Anthony is glad other people believe in him. "It's good to know I might be able to go somewhere else if I had to," he said. "You have to keep your options open." Anthony has concerns about A.J. trying to compete next year without sponsorship. "My grandfather wants the best for me," Anthony said. "But with the money it costs to run these cars, I don't want him to go broke on my account." "I'll be running here next year," Foyt said. "We'll find some sponsorship. Companies want young kids like Anthony representing them. I have one more year on my deal with Toyota, and I won't let Anthony leave yet. I believe we have what we need for him to win."
Biffle, Labontes to drive Grand-AmUPDATE #2 Past Nextel Cup champions Bobby and Terry Labonte will be teaming with IRL IndyCar Series' star Bryan Herta of Andretti-Green Racing and former Formula One driver Jan Magnussen for the Feb. 5-6 Rolex 24 At Daytona. The four will be one of two team cars fielded by Doran Racing. "Bobby tested the car at Homestead the second week of December,' team owner Kevin Doran said of the 2000 Nextel Cup champ. "He put in a couple of 10-12 laps stints and he was completely comfortable with the car by the second stint.' While the upcoming Rolex 24-Hour will be Bobby Labonte's first such race, older brother Terry ran in five 24-hour races at Daytona in the early to mid-1980's. Indeed, the two time Cup champion Terry Labonte scored his first Cup championship in the same year in which he had earlier scored a GTO-class victory and a sixth-place overall finish in the classic twice-around-the clock race. Interestingly, in that Rolex 24 victory, Labonte teamed with his Cup car owner of that year, Billy Hagan. Gene Felton rounded out the driving team. Doran's second car will be driven by Italians Fabrizio Gollin, Matteo Bobbi and Doran Racing veteran Didier Theys. As a car owner, Doran won the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona in 1998 and 2002 and Theys went on to win the Grand American Sports Racing Prototype championship in 2002. Daytona Beach News Journal12/20/04 It's not just Biffle. The France family is calling in all the NASCAR stars to boost the popularity of the Grand-Am series. Jayski reports - Hearing that Bobby and Terry Labonte bought themselves a Doran JE4 Daytona Prototype and will be running in the Feb. 5-6 Rolex 24 At Daytona and will additionally run two other races in the Rolex Series: the Thursday-night June 30 Paul Revere 250 at Daytona and at the Friday Aug. 12 Watkins Glen Cup race weekend. I'm hearing they MIGHT also run July 31 at Birmingham's Barber Motor Sports Park, which is a free date between Cup's Pocono and Brickyard dates. Their Pontiac-powered Doran JE4, built by Doran Designs, will be maintained by the car's constructor, Kevin Doran, through another company, Doran Racing. The Brothers Labonte have actually tried to get a Rolex 24 team together for the last two or three years. So it's something they've wanted to do but, for one of any of the myriad reasons that racing deals can fall apart, just weren't able to get an effort off the ground until this year. 12/20/04 Rumor has it that Roush Racing NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver Greg Biffle, Multimatic factory driver Scott Maxwell and Multimatic President Larry Holt on Tuesday will announce an all-star driver line-up and a special sponsor for the No. 49 Ford Multimatic for the 2005 Rolex 24 At Daytona, February 3 -6.
Did NASCAR buy SPEED Channel? While there was talk of NASCAR buying SPEED Channel a few years ago and making it the NASCAR Channel, for whatever reason that never came to fruition. Hence, although SPEED panders to NASCAR, they still offer coverage of many other racing series. Interestingly, however, AutoWeek's Dutch Mandel wrote in the November 1, 2004 issue of the magazine about why AutoWeek would no longer be on SPEED Channel after December 19, 2004, a run of almost 9 years. One sentence in the article caught our attention. "In the quick, A.D.D.-addled MTV world, AutoWeek on SPEED couldn't keep pace with progress. First was the progress of NASCAR buying the network and loading up on good ol'boy centric shows that paid the bills."
Some theorize that NASCAR's rise in popularity in the USA was on the back of the pro-NASCAR media, much of which is secretly owned by the France family. Because it's almost all privately owned we may never know if they do secretly own the media under various assumed names or companies, but this theory that some insist has merit, made us think when Mandel said NASCAR bought the SPEED Network. Surely a slip of the tongue........or was it?
Rosberg looks set for GP2 The son of former Formula One World Champion Nico Rosberg is rumored to be racing in Formula GP2 next season with BCN Competicion, but he is not yet signed. "BCN is one option but there are some others as well" said Rosberg. "There will be a decision in the next weeks. Looking back over the year, I think I have proved to everyone that I am fast and I look forward to progressing my career next season."
IRL may lose a founding sponsorUPDATE While reporting Ed Carpenter's and Andre Lotterer's recent test for the team at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, the IRL's official website www.indyracingleague.com stated that the team has still to confirm sponsorship for its second Dallara-Chevrolet for 2005 for Panther Racing. The No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet began 2004 with British rookie Mark Taylor behind the wheel, but Taylor was replaced by American Townsend Bell after just six races and numerous crashes. Menards provided primary sponsorship for the No. 2 car but with the company's 2005 partnership with Robby Gordon's new NASCAR Nextel Cup team and Chevrolet's impending withdrawal from the IRL scene, John Menard may have elected to focus his attentions elsewhere for 2005. Crash.net12/07/04 One of the founding sponsors of the IRL series, Menards/Johns Manville sponsorship on the second car at Panther Racing is in doubt for 2005 as lumber magnate John Menard concentrates on son Paul Menard's entry into the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series.
Other IRL scuttlebutt says AJ Foyt Racing hopes to return for AJ Foyt, IV's third IRL season, though sponsorship has not been announced and troubled financial and insurance firm Conseco is gone. You can bet Tony George won't let Foyt close his doors, so look for him to fund the deal.
2004 IRL participants Dreyer and Reinbold Racing, Mo Nunn Racing, Patrick Racing, and Greg Ray's Access Motorsports are all planning to return in some form, though specifics have not been settled.
As for rideless drivers, veterans Jaques Lazier, Felipe Giaffone, Roger Yasukawa, and Robby McGehee are actively soliciting for rides, while Pro Series drivers Paul Dana, Thiago Medeiros, and PJ Chesson are trying to find their place to break into the IndyCars. Yasukawa, Ed Carpenter (via Tony George's bank account) and Chesson are all thought to have some sponsorship available.
Lewis Hamilton headed to Formula GP2 Bahrain Formula 3 Super Prix winner Lewis Hamilton’s contract with the McLaren Formula 1 team has expired after a decade of working together. Both parties were optimistic of reaching a new agreement. Hamilton will race in either GP2 or the F3 Euroseries again next year. Autosport Magazine
Parente to get World Series seat Portuguese Alvaro Parente is “looking good” for a World Series by Renault seat with Carlin Motorsport in 2005, according to team boss Trevor Carlin. Parente, a British F3 race winner with Carlin in ’04, suffered gearbox failure in the Paul Ricard test, without which the team claims he would have been fastest. “He was the quickest on used tires – he’s taken to it well,” said Carlin. Autosport Magazine
Lotterer rejects the IRL Look for German Formula Nippon ace André Lotterer to stay in Japan and race for the Nakajima Planning team despite a recent IRL road course test with Panther Racing. It seems the test was a way for the Panther squad to cheat the IRL rules regarding testing limits by running Lotterer under the guise of a possible seat for 2005 when in reality it was to get some road course miles on their IRL car.
Bubba Stewart eyes NASCAR According to the St. Petersburg Times sports page, Motocross rider James Stewart is talking to NASCAR teams about his future. Citing the signing of female racers Danica Patrick to a IRL deal with the Rahal/Letterman team and Erin Crocker to the Ray Evernham team, the St. Pete paper claimed that Stewart was the next hot property among Nextel Cup teams. They also noted that he has yet to test a car (or race in an automobile race). "Just having NASCAR teams talking to me has been pretty cool," said Stewart. "I mean, I'd love to race in that series someday. They race in front of hundreds of thousands of fans every weekend on major television. Who wouldn't want that? It's definitely something I would want to do down the road."
Montagny's Minardi favorite (GMM) Franck Montagny has emerged as a frontrunner to race the sister Minardi F1 car next year. Paul Stoddart's Anglo-Italian team announced last week that Dutch DTM speedster Christijan Albers had landed one seat. And, according to a media report of the Australian Associated Press (AAP), Renault-contracted test driver Montagny is 'in contact' with the Faenza-based straggler. ''(Minardi) has some financial requirements,'' the Frenchman was quoted as saying. ''If everything goes well, they will be able to choose which driver they want to hire.'' Franck tested a Minardi a while back and manager Gilles Bellec thinks he's 'ready' for the grid.
Nico Rosberg to GP2 According to an article by Josh Barnett on sportnetwork.net, Nico Rosberg, son of 1982 F1 champ Keke Rosberg, has signed for GP2 team BCN. Former F3 and F3000 driver Ernesto Viso has already signed with the team.
Van Hooydonk eyes Minardi seat A few weeks ago Belgian Jeffrey van Hooydonk was offered a test with the Minardi team at Misano (Italy). Since then his management has been in touch with the team. "Our contact with Stoddart is very good," van Hooydonk's father said. "We're working to secure Minardi's third seat for 2005. Nothing is signed yet. We just do our best." Van Hooydonk might take over from his countryman Bas Leinders, who tested with the team in 2004. "We will try to secure a two-year deal. Testing in 2005 and racing in 2006."
Max Papis to become GM driverUPDATE Besides driving for the Corvette ALMS team for 2005, look for Max Papis to replace Max Angelelli in the Cadillac CTS-V for 2005 (SPEED Word Challenge?). 12/15/04 Max Papis is leaving the team with which he won this year’s Daytona Prototype crown. The Italian is parting company with the Lexus backed Ganassi squad because of his links with General Motors. He already races its Chevrolet Corvettes in the American Le Mans Series and is tipped to make a switch to a Pontiac team in the 2005 Grand-Am series. Autosport Magazine
Layoffs at McLarenThe Woking News and Mail is reporting that 48 jobs may be terminated at McLaren because of uncertainty over the future of a new concept car called Project 8. The new car has been frozen by McLaren and Mercedes-Benz because of "challenges currently faced by the global automotive industry". This is interesting given the plans for the new car, which aimed to take the McLaren name into a bigger role in car production, following up on the SLR. There have been rumors for some time that there have been stresses and strains between McLaren and Mercedes since the new management took over at Mercedes-Benz in the autumn. Grandprix.com
Repsol to back Red Bull team Former Spanish state oil producer Repsol is being linked to a supply contract with Red Bull Racing. The team, under the guise of Jaguar Racing, previously used Castrol lubricants. Repsol was last in Formula One as supplier and backer of Arrows and Pedro de la Rosa. F1-Live
Ferrari has leg up on rivals again Rumor has it that Ferrari is ahead of all its rivals in development of their 2.4-liter V8 engine that is mandated for F1 starting in 2006. Ferrari team manager Stefano Domenicalli has already confessed that the team's V8 engine has been running for “quite some time on the dyno and will soon see its test debut in a car at Fiorano.” With Ferrari's closest rivals having only just decided to abandon an arbitration action against the FIA over the switch to V8 engines, the pressure is now on Mercedes-Benz, Honda and BMW to catch up on its development plans.
BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen said, “The change of concept creates quite some pressure and higher costs,” he said. “We have to compress the development program. But I cannot state yet a time for the first test on the dyno. I am sure however that the team which has supposedly built the best grand prix engine during the last couple of years will also master this new task.”
Why NASCAR wants into Champ Car's gold mine [Editor's Note: Champ Car had a strong position in Mexico, but why has Champ Car and the IRL teams lost sponsors from Mexico if according to this LA Times article, the Mexico economy is booming? The answer is NASCAR is coming to Mexico, and they will eventually suck the sponsorship well dry. Adrian Fernandez lost his sponsorship, Herdez has left Champ Car and Gigante is rumored to be in financial straits and possibly pulling out. On the plus side Pemex is rumored to be coming in. This article explains why Champ Car is in Mexico and why NASCAR is coming to Mexico while the IRL remains on the outside looking in.]
Key excerpts from article North America's hottest auto market is now south of the border, thanks to a stable peso, lots of young drivers and pent-up demand. Dressed in a blazing pink jacket with purse to match, car shopper Erika Amador Martinez is the embodiment of Mexico's auto market — sizzling. The lawyer from Puebla arrived at an auto show here this month to browse among dozens of models. Topping her list is a Ford EcoSport, a sport utility vehicle that she covets for its practicality, not to mention the kicky red paint job.
"I'll pay part in cash and finance the rest," said the 27-year-old, who is tired of cadging rides from her boyfriend. "It's a lot easier to buy a car than it was a few years ago."
Armed with credit and spoiled for choice, consumers like Amador have turned Mexico into North America's hottest auto market. Although sales in the United States and Canada have stalled, Mexico is experiencing double-digit percentage increases in 2004, with buyers projected to purchase a record 1.05 million new vehicles by year's end.
That's more cars and trucks than will have been sold in Australia by the end of this year and in all but a few European countries. Some expect Mexico to overtake Canada in annual vehicle sales by the end of the decade.
The auto boom is indicative of a rebounding economy, lots of young drivers and years of pent-up demand. Banks scorched by Mexico's mid-1990s peso crisis are back and lending billions of dollars to consumers, whose choices rival anything in U.S. showrooms. Lured by free trade agreements and Mexico's sales potential, nearly 40 car brands are fighting for a piece of the market. Already a major vehicle manufacturer and exporter, with companies such as Ford, General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, Volkswagen, Honda and Toyota operating plants here, Mexico's growing domestic market could provide an added incentive for automakers to expand production in the country.
"It's a market that has definitely arrived," said Gabriel Renero, head of automotive consulting for advisory firm Deloitte in Mexico.
But the last decade has seen a retooling of Mexico's economy. The 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement created hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs, attracted billions of dollars in foreign investment and turned Mexico into an exporting powerhouse.
Today the peso is sound. Inflation is relatively tame. The world's fifth-largest oil producer is reaping a windfall from elevated crude prices. Although still dogged by high unemployment and entrenched poverty, Mexico nevertheless is enjoying a measure of economic stability it hasn't seen in years.
That in turn has emboldened lenders who have jumped back into the market, providing much of the juice for Mexico's auto boom. Edwin Vega, director of retail lending for Scotiabank Inverlat in Mexico, estimates that banks, auto-finance companies and others will have lent $4.5 billion to Mexican car buyers by the end of this year. Aided by better underwriting and Mexico's stable economy, lenders are offering something every bit as revolutionary as Henry Ford's assembly line: fixed interest rates.
The vast majority of new cars purchased by Mexicans this year have been compacts and subcompacts that sell for as little as $7,000. Most Americans have never heard of the Nissan Tsuru, Ford Ka or Volkswagen Pointer, which are geared for developing markets and reflect the modest incomes in nations like Mexico, where many still earn less than $5 a day.
Still, luxury car maker Mercedes-Benz reports that its Mexican sales are surging 15% this year, with minivans and SUVs the fastest-growing segments in the market.
Ford dealer Tame said he had a waiting list 10 deep for the new $26,000 Mustang and could barely keep the $16,000 EcoSport SUV in stock. He said he would move 10% more cars off his lot this year than in 2003, but he had to work harder because of burgeoning competition.
Mexico has almost as many car brands and models fighting for a slice of its turf as does the United States, whose market is 16 times bigger. Thus car companies are offering everything from free auto insurance to home appliances to get Mexicans into a set of their wheels.
"In the old days, it used to be the Big Three, Nissan, Volkswagen and that's about it," Tame said. "Now the whole world is here."
And more are coming. Russian car maker Lada said it would begin exporting its Niva SUV to Mexico in the spring. Japan's Mazda Motor Corp. plans to open its first five Mexican dealerships in the third quarter of 2005.
Japan recently inked a free trade agreement with Mexico, joining more than 40 other nations with liberal access to its market. Experts say such deals are a sweetener in attracting car companies to Mexico. But none would bother if not for Mexico's enormous potential, said Carlos Gomes, a Scotiabank auto industry analyst based in Canada.
Although the U.S. remains the world's foremost car consumer, its drivers are aging and its market is saturated. By comparison, half of Mexico's population is younger than 25 and most of its 65 million driving-age citizens don't yet own a car.
Vehicles sales have nearly doubled here since 1990, but fewer than two of 10 Mexicans possess a vehicle today. That compares with nearly eight of 10 in the U.S.
"Mexico is and will be the star of North America," Gomes said. "That is really where the growth will be."
Toyota Motor Corp. opened a $140-million plant near Tijuana this year to make Tacoma pickups and truck beds. Although most of that production will end up in the United States, the growing Mexican market helped sway Toyota to locate there, plant operations chief Joe da Rosa said this year.
Global vehicle sales (in millions) Country / Car sales 1. USA/ 16,738 2. Japan / 5,620 3. China / 4,671 4. Germany / 3,397 5. Britain / 2,906 6. Italy / 2,446 7. France / 2,394 8. Spain / 1,819 9. Canada / 1,546 10. Brazil / 1,477 11. Russia / 1,449 12. India / 1,120 13. S. Korea / 1,052 14. Mexico / 1,051* *Projection Source: National Sources, J.D. Power-LMC, Mexican Automotive Industry Assn.
Maybe Argentina can support a Champ Car race With the rumors of a pending Champ Car race in Argentina comes doubt Argentina can support a Champ Car race given their recent economic turmoil. Think again - When the Argentine economy collapsed in December 2001, doomsday predictions abounded. Unless it adopted orthodox economic policies and quickly cut a deal with its foreign creditors, hyperinflation would surely follow, the peso would become worthless, investment and foreign reserves would vanish and any prospect of growth would be strangled.
But three years after Argentina declared a record debt default of more than $100 billion, the largest in history, the apocalypse has not arrived. Instead, the economy has grown by 8 percent for two consecutive years, exports have zoomed, the currency is stable, investors are gradually returning and unemployment has eased from record highs - all without a debt settlement or the standard measures required by the International Monetary Fund for its approval.
Argentina's recovery has been undeniable, and it has been achieved at least in part by ignoring and even defying economic and political orthodoxy. Rather than moving to immediately satisfy bondholders, private banks and the I.M.F., as other developing countries have done in less severe crises, the Peronist-led government chose to stimulate internal consumption first and told creditors to get in line with everyone else.
"This is a remarkable historical event, one that challenges 25 years of failed policies," said Mark Weisbrot, an economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal research group in Washington. "While other countries are just limping along, Argentina is experiencing very healthy growth with no sign that it is unsustainable, and they've done it without having to make any concessions to get foreign capital inflows." More at NY Times
BMW may supply customers engines BMW have hinted for the first time that they would be prepared to supply customer engines. Mario Theissen, BMW’s motorsport director, said: “Currently we concentrate on our common goal next season with Williams. From the capacity point of view it would be possible to give engines to another team beyond 2005, but there is no decision about that yet. If such a decision has been taken, we would announce it. The pro would be to gain more track experience in a case of test restriction. The con is to get distracted. One thing is sure: you cannot earn money if you take your customer seriously and want to make sure that he gets a top rate engine.” Asked whether Williams were able to block BMW from supplying a second team, Theissen said: “I cannot reveal anything about the contract with Williams.”
Forsythe to run three or four carsUPDATE AutoRacing1.com has learned that Forsythe Racing is close to signing Canadian youngster Andrew Ranger to the third car and the 4th car (yes, 4th car) is down to Ryan Hunter-Reay and Jarek Janis. Decisions should be made in early January. Hunter-Reay also has some opportunities elsewhere, so we shall see where he lands. This RDS story substantiates the Ranger to Forsythe rumor. Ironically Alan Labrosse who used to represent Patrick Carpentier until he was lured away by Japanese Yen, also represents Ranger, who looks to be taking Carpentier's seat at Forsythe. According to the Journal de Montreal, Labrosse met with Gerald Forsythe in Chicago last week and the meeting was very positive. Mark C.12/22/04 Rumor has it that Gerald Forsythe will almost definitely run three cars again in 2005. Tracy and Lavin are set and we hear the third seat will probably go to a funded driver. Mark C.
IRL to reduce no. of tire changers This SPEED TV article says, In the wake of several incidents in the pits last year, the Indy Racing League is seriously considering only allowing two tire changers, instead of four, over the wall in 2005. IRL tire changers and fuelers were endangered species in 2004 and IRL boss Brian Barnhart may follow NASCAR's lead and go with two men changing all four tires. Besides putting two less people over the wall, this tactic could eliminate the fuelers being hit since it only takes approximately eight seconds to fuel the cars and it would take at least twice that time frame to change four tires.
Mo Nunn Racing to shut doors?UPDATE #3 This SPEED TV article says, Morris Nunn has given his crew the rest of 2004 off, with pay, but the veteran car owner/engineer told them to shop around for jobs because he can't promise them anything for 2005. "I can't guarantee anything for next year and it's getting late," said Nunn, who started his own CART team in 2001 before moving full-time to the IRL last season. "I've got 21 employees and it's a difficult position to be in because it if doesn't happen I don't want them to wait too long to try and find another job. "So I'm warning them to be ready just in case because I can't guarantee anybody anything after Dec. 31." Nunn also admitted he told team members that if they got a solid job offer they should accept it. 12/20/04 Further reports say that Mo Nunn has told his employees that he will pay them through the end of the month and then he's closing his doors due to lack of money. 12/18/04 AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that Mo Nunn has told people he is out of racing and will retire and play lots of golf. We don't look for this team to be back in 2005 unless Tony George or one of the engine companies make him a huge offer of money. Mark C.12/17/04 IRL IndyCar team owner Morris Nunn doesn't have any sponsors for next season and after auditioning several women drivers for a ride in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, his lovely wife Kathryn Nunn might not field a team in 2005. She will give her sponsorship search until the end of the month, she said Thursday. This Indy Star article talks about other IRL teams on the ropes. It should be noted that several Champ Car teams are on the ropes as well, looking for ride-buyers to fill their seats. Such is the sad state of affairs of open wheel racing in the USA caused by the split in the sport when the IRL was created. At its height in 1995 with high TV ratings, huge attendance, and more sponsor dollars in the paddock than NASCAR, as we approach the 10-year anniversary of Tony George's failed dream, the sport of IndyCar Racing is a now a mere shadow of its former self and Tony George has left himself quite a legacy.
Newman/Haas Daytona 24 Effort in the Works?UPDATE #3 According to this Indy Star article, Cristiano da Matta might drive with the team as well.....possibly another hint he is driving for Newman/Haas in Champ Car in 2005. 12/15/04 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact.' Paul Newman will team up in February’s Daytona 24 Hours with the two drivers who race for his Champ Car squad. Newman, who turns 80 before the race, will drive with Champ Car title winner Sébastien Bourdais and fellow Newman-Haas racer Bruno Junqueira in the US classic. They will share a Ford-powered Crawford DP03 with long-time Newman partner Michael Brockman. They will drive a car hired from expatriate Brit Chris Hall’s Silverstone Racing Services team. It will be run by personnel from both Silverstone and Crawford. Max Crawford, whose DP03 design led much of last year’s race, said: “It will be pretty cool to have Paul in one of our cars. Our whole team is motivated by this.” Newman, who raced a FABCAR in this year’s race, was due to drive the car for the first time at the Kershaw test track in South Carolina yesterday (Wednesday). Autosport Magazine12/13/04 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1, First it was Paul Tracy and now it's Newman/Haas, what are these people thinking? Why on earth would they go over and help put on a better show for the exact people who are trying to put them out of business? First, Champ Cars were run out of the oval business by NASCAR and now it's obvious that NASCAR is hoping to build up their Grand-Am series to take over the road racing side of things in the U.S. So far, they haven't been successful even though the racing is pretty good, but if you bring over the biggest names from Champ Car to the 24 Hours, then all you're doing is helping to make Daytona a bigger show and draw more attention. Now I know why CART went out of business. The people involved didn't have any foresight and it looks like some of the Champ Car ranks don't have much either. Richard G. Springfield, Ohio Dear Richard, Did you stop to think that perhaps Champ Car is trying to mend broken fences with the France family, fences that should never have been broken in the first place? Stop and think of the positive ramifications of that. Mark C. 12/12/04 In an article posted on the LeMans official website, 2004 Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais mentioned Newman/Haas was looking into putting a Daytona Prototype program together for the 2005 Daytona 24. The chassis and engine have been chosen; but Bourdais wasn’t sure if the team could have everything ready by February. At the time of the interview Bourdais thought the project had a 50% chance of coming to fruition for the 24.
Andretti Green eyes Rolex 24 Rumor has it that Andretti Green Racing is considering an entry for the Rolex 24 hour race in 2006. Kim Green told the Indy Star, "It's not something we planned for in 2005, but we might as a team do it in 2006."
China will someday be No. 1 "I am, to be honest, deathly afraid to establish business overseas. And, I am kind of afraid not to," said Robert Peuterbaugh, who has been running his family's toolmaking business, Joint Production Technology Inc., since 1985.
"I wasn't so afraid until I went to China and saw how smart, diligent and attentive they are. They're not Mexico, which was built on the concept of cheap labor. China is scary." More at Detroit Free press
German company buys CosworthUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact.' AUDI AG announced today that it has reached an agreement for the sale of COSWORTH TECHNOLOGY LIMITED to MAHLE GmbH, a leading German Tier 1 powertrain systems supplier. It is expected that the sale of Cosworth Technology will be completed early in January 2005 (subject to regulatory clearance). “Cosworth Technology, which played a key role in the development of our hugely successful Audi RS6 model, will remain a supplier of powertrain engineering and niche machining and assembly services to the Audi Group," commented Dr. Jochem Heizmann, Board Member for Production at AUDI AG and Chairman of the Supervisory Committee of COSWORTH TECHNOLOGY LIMITED. “Under Mahle's ownership, Cosworth Technology will also be better placed to win new contracts from other automotive OEMs.” MAHLE GmbH, which has its headquarters in Stuttgart, has 35,000 employees in 65 production locations globally and is the world’s leading manufacturer of pistons, engine components and filter systems. AUDI AG acquired COSWORTH TECHNOLOGY LIMITED (headquarters in Northampton, UK), including its subsidiary COSWORTH TECHNOLOGY INC. (headquarters in Novi, USA), in 1998 from Vickers. Cosworth Technology operates from three locations in the United Kingdom and also from the facility in the USA, and has around 970 employees. A leading global provider of integrated engine and powertrain solutions, COSWORTH TECHNOLOGY LIMITED had sales of £112 million and COSWORTH TECHNOLOGY INC. had sales of $31 million during the financial year ending 31st December 2003. 12/23/04 We are hearing that a German company has agreed to purchase Cosworth Technology, not to be confused with the Cosworth Racing that Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe recently bought, though at one time they were all one company. In 1998 Cosworth was acquired by the Audi Group from Vickers with the Engineering, Manufacturing, Casting units (trading as Cosworth Technology Ltd). Racing unit trading as Cosworth Racing Ltd sold to Ford Motor Co.
Albers to drive for MinardiUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Christijan Albers has been confirmed as a Minardi Formula 1 driver for next season and Holland is currently rejoicing. The sport has been in decline in Holland since the disappearance of Jos Verstappen and the arrival of Albers will be a shot in the arm for the thousands of dedicated Dutch fans. But there is probably even better news to come because all the signs are that in the New Year Robert Doornbos will be named as one of the two Jordan drivers. Doornbos is currently biding his time, waiting to see what happens with the ownership of the team but, come what may, he is the man most likely to join the Silverstone-based team. Grandprix.com12/22/04 Dutch driver Christijan Albers will join the Italian Minardi Formula One team, the Dutch www.F1Racing.NL website reported on Wednesday. Minardi have called a news conference for Thursday in Amsterdam for an "important announcement". The Communication Company, the public relations firm for Albers, had no immediate comment. Albers, 25, tested last month for both Minardi and Jordan as well as Champ Car. He is a former German Formula Three champion who drove for Mercedes in the DTM touring car series this year.
What NASCAR might look like in 2008 This The Union Leader article says, It's hard to survive in NASCAR as a single-car team — whether it's in the Nextel Cup, Busch or Craftsman Truck Series. It looks as if Morgan-McClure will be the latest in a long line of shops to end up on the auction block.
Unless you're a factory-backed, well-financed team, it's impossible to race against the big dogs. And as the day draws near when Toyota and, eventually, Honda will join the Cup ranks, look for an even greater disparity between the haves and the have-nots.
It's too early to tell which teams will jump to Honda, but considering Rick Hendrick has Toyota and Honda dealerships, I can see technical partners MBV/MB2 and Haas-CNC jumping ship and providing Hendrick with a view of Honda's or Toyota's operation. Roger Penske's United Auto Group also holds Honda/Acura dealerships.
If five automakers compete in Nextel Cup, each will have roughly eight teams. Until then, Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford and Toyota will have about 10 each. Teams such as Morgan-McClure will be lost.
This is purely hypothetical, but it's not too early to guess what the future could look like:
Chevrolet Hendrick Motorsports. The bow tie powerhouse will field four solid teams.
Dale Earnhardt Inc. When Martin Truex graduates to Cup in 2006, DEI will have three full-time teams.
Richard Childress Racing. Although it will take time to rebuild, expect RCR to maintain three Cup teams unless Childress gets lost in his vineyards. There's always a possibility that DEI and RCR will combine forces.
Dodge Evernham Motorsports. EMS has been and will continue to be the top dog at Dodge. Expect a third full-time team in 2006.
Penske Motorsports. Insiders expect Penske to stay put with Dodge, partially because of his Mercedes connection (DaimlerChrysler owns both Mercedes and Dodge). Perhaps the Penske-Jasper car, No. 77, could join with Toyota or Honda.
Joe Gibbs Racing. Gibbs never will be top dog at Chevrolet, but his outfit would be a solid addition for Dodge.
Petty Enterprises. The sentimental favorite already has switched to Evernham engines.
Ford Roush Racing. Roush has five teams, and who can argue with the organization's success?
Robert Yates Racing. RYR puts the power in blue oval horsepower. Expect a third team in 2006.
Wood Brothers Racing. Moving and rebuilding the operation has saved this shop from going the way of Morgan-McClure and Bud Moore. A second team could come in the future.
Toyota Ganassi Racing. Don't be surprised. Ganassi gave Toyota its first Champ Car race win.
Bill Davis Racing. BDR is hoping the time and effort put into Toyota trucks will be rewarded when Cup deals materialize.
Possibilities: Penske or Gibbs.
Honda Too early to tell. [Editor's Note: Possibilities: Penske or Gibbs. Just as we saw with the move from Champ Car to the IRL, look for Honda to possibly take some of its IRL teams to NASCAR when it eventually makes the move over. The teams survive because of Honda money and they will have no choice but to move or go belly up. Possibilities include Andretti Green Racing, Rahal Letterman, etc.]
John de Mol backs Albers John de Mol is one of Holland's best known businessmen. He made a vast fortune as one of the partners of the Endemol company which brought reality TV to the world and eventually sold out to the Spanish telephone company Telefonica. De Mol left Endemol last year and since then has been spending his money, investing in a variety of different businesses through his investment company Talpa Holdings. He bought and sold a stake in the Manchester United soccer empire, he owns a big chunk of the Spyker car company and more recently has been focusing his attention on building up a digital TV empire which will be launched in the summer of 2005 and will aim at grabbing a slice of the highly-developed Dutch cable TV market. Holland is unusual in that around 98% of the population have cable TV and de Mol seems to have ambitions beyond Dutch borders with a telecommunications company called Versatel in which he recently raised his ownership to 42%. De Mol's TV channel is going to use sport and family programming at prime time to pull in its audience and yesterday announced that he has bought the TV rights to the Dutch first division soccer league for 2005 and 2006. He needs more programming, of course, and the word in Holland is that he will outbid SBS, the station which currently has the F1 TV rights, which has been losing ratings recently because of the lack of a Dutch driver in F1. Funding the F1 career of Christijan Albers would kill two birds with one stone as it would draw attention to de Mol's new channel and at the same time boost TV audiences for F1. We expect that some of this will be announced later today when Minardi confirms Albers as one of its drivers in 2005. Grandprix.com
Baumgartner for Minardi (GMM) With Minardi certain to name a Dutch rookie as one 2005 driver on Thursday, attention will turn to who will be Christijan Albers' new teammate. Team founder Gian Carlo Minardi, although he said the decision is 'not up to me,' is certain to advise team owner Paul Stoddart to plump for either incumbent Zsolt Baumgartner or Gianmaria Bruni. ''We are used to having new drivers every year,'' the Italian told atlasf1.com, ''but it would be nice if one of them stayed on -- it would be one less variable.'' Earlier in the month, Minardi revealed that Hungarian-backed Baumgartner would 'almost surely' remain at Faenza beyond '04, although he insists he was 'misquoted.'
Red Bull to go for Klien? (GMM) Red Bull is in 'no hurry' to name a 2005 F1 teammate for David Coulthard. That's the insistence of Helmut Marko, advisor to energy drink mogul Dietrich Mateschitz and an Austrian-born former grand prix driver. ''We need more time to weigh up all the options,'' he told the Austrian media after managing director David Pitchforth suggested that 2004 (Jaguar) driver Christian Klien should stay at the team in 2005 given that he is over-qualified for the Friday role and should not be abandoned. Marko, who lost the sight in one eye after a stone smashed his visor in 1972, told German website F1welt.de that Pitchforth 'must remember that he is an employee, not a team owner,' perhaps punching in the corner for F3000 champion and similarly Red Bull-backed Tonio Liuzzi. 61-year-old Helmut said: ''All decisions will be made in Salzburg.''
Red Bull close on tire deal (GMM) 'Red Bull Racing' is hoping to retain the backing of some 'existing' F1 team sponsors in 2005. Based at Milton-Keynes, the team, formerly Jaguar Racing, was recently sold by Ford to the energy drink magnate and billionaire Dieter Mateschitz.
We can reveal that 2004 Jag backer Beck's, the German beer label, and HSBC are definitely gone, but 'UGS' and 'Du Pont' may be two brands likely to slide to the new car livery. Furthermore, we reported recently that Red Bull is chatting to Spanish oil company Repsol. ''Red Bull ... is in discussion with existing partners,'' a spokeswoman admitted, ''and is also talking to potential new partners at present.'' The UK-based team, though, do not plan to reveal the identity of any 2005 partners until the New Year, she added.
Da Matta N/H deal may be imminentUPDATE #3 Autoracing1.com has learned that da Matta's sponsor will be a fuel company and that his deal is just waiting for the right opportunity to be announced. Will he be back in a Texaco Havoline car in 2005 or will the Brazilian oil company Petrobras step into the game? 12/22/04 According to this Champ Car article, the return of Cristiano da Matta to Newman/Haas and the birth of Newman/Haas’s three-car superteam is close. Supposedly both the sponsorship and the will and commitment from within the team to make it happen are there. But if sources are correct, there’s a Christmas grinch (read that Carl Haas) who’s looking too fiercely at the bottom line and not embracing the power in the romantic notion of a three-car superteam. 11/05/04 We are hearing that the deal is 80% complete and they hope to perhaps wrap it up this weekend. 11/05/04 Cristiano Da Matta is a guest of the Newman/Haas team this weekend at Mexico City. In an exclusive chat with AR1, CDM and his manager, Fernando Paiva, have confirmed that, although they have "many options" for next year, their priority for 2005 is to land a Newman/Haas seat. Paiva also hinted that an announcement may be imminent, as the two have a series of "business talks" scheduled for this weekend with the N/H honchos. Cassio Cortes
Washington Track Dead? Lead negotiator Quits The lead staff member for Snohomish County's negotiations to bring a NASCAR track to the area quit this month to become Marysville's new public-works director. Paul Roberts, who worked for County Executive Aaron Reardon for less than year, also had served as Everett's planning director. Roberts said he made the move, which will mean a $14,000-a-year pay cut, primarily for personal reasons. His new job will give him more control over his schedule, he said. Roberts led the county's discussions with International Speedway Corp., a racetrack developer that chose a site north of Marysville for the NASCAR track. Discussions with the corporation ended last month because of a disagreement over how much money the company should contribute to the project. Seattle Times
Williams to announce drivers earlier The Williams-BMW team has scheduled a major press announcement for the first week of January, twenty-four hours before it is due to take the wraps off its new car at the Bahrain International Circuit. The announcement is scheduled for January 6th in central London and will be followed by a press conference and photo call. With the identity of the team's second driver still unknown, we assume that is what they will announce that day before heading to Bahrain for the 2005 car launch. It is possible they will announce a new major sponsor/partner on that day, but it is believed to be the driver announcement.
Nick Heidfeld and Antonio Pizzonia remain the favorites to partner Mark Webber, though Red Bull's Vitantonio Liuzzi could make a late bid for the seat. However, the team never bothered to test Liuzzi before the testing break so that appears unlikely.
VW to change name (GMM) The largest European carmaker not involved with Formula One, Volkswagen, may be considering a change of name. The Wolfsburg-based brand, though, denied the media speculation, the press office insisting that the name is 'rooted in tradition.' Earlier, the German 'Bild' newspaper said parent company VW may become 'Auto Union' to differentiate between the Volkswagen and similarly-owned Audi vehicle lines. The VW holding company also controls Bentley, Lamborghini, Seat, Skoda and - soon - Bugatti. Earlier in 2004, Bernie Ecclestone urged the German manufacturer, whose boss Bernd Pischetsrieder attended the Bahrain grand prix in April, into F1.
Will Kalkhoven and Forsythe shut down the IRL? A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Anton George tried to buy Champ Car's Cosworth engines in bankruptcy to put Champ Car out of business. He is then rumored to have attempted to buy Cosworth from Ford using Chip Ganassi as a front-man recently, presumably to put Champ Car out of business (conjecture on my part). Now that Kalkhoven and Forsythe have bought Pi Research, will they pull their products from the IRL and shut them down in 2005? Paybacks are a bitch as they say..... Jeff Foyer, Chantilly, VA Dear Jeff, Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe are true gentlemen and professional businessmen. They do not conduct themselves like that. Besides, we are sure they derive great pleasure from profits generated out of the IRL paddock from both Pi and Cosworth. Ironically Kalkhoven and Forsythe will likely make more profit from the IRL than Tony George is, who has sunk the family fortune into it. All profits from the IRL can be rolled back into Champ Car to grow that series. Mark C.
N144KK headed for Africa Our spy planes picked up Gulfstream November-one-four-four-kilo-kilo (N144KK - the call letters of Kalkhoven's jet) on its way to South Africa. Kevin Kalkhoven, partner Dan Pettit and long-time associate and now Champ Car President Dick Eidswick and their families are spending the holidays in South Africa for some hard earned R&R. Remember the rumored Champ Car race in Durban, South Africa and the play South Africa is making for a F1 race? Never one to let the grass grow under his feet for too long, who wants to bet KK and company will sneak in a little business with their pleasure?
Champ Car aiming for 400 million Our Champ Car moles tell us that combined, the new TV deals being struck around the world for 2005 will see Champ Car available in 400 million homes worldwide. How many of those homes will tune in to watch the races will largely depend of the marketing effort put forth by Champ Car and its sponsors. 400 million potential homes is a large number; it equates to 1 billion potential viewers per race. Of course the actual number of viewers will be far less, but a fraction of a billion is still a large number. It is this sort of ammunition that the teams are lacking to sell to sponsors. We are talking about the opportunity for sponsors to reach a large mass of people around the world with a Champ Car sponsorship yet with the Marketing Department now rudderless (Marketing Chief was recently terminated) how much of this information is finding its way down to the teams, except through AutoRacing1.com?
Heidfeld already signedUPDATE According to tabloid Die Bild, the German driver will get the nod ahead of on-off Williams tester Antonio Pizzonia, having impressed in a couple of recent test sessions in Spain. The German article says that Heidfeld has signed a one-year $5 million plus bonuses deal with the BMW-powered team, with an extension option to follow at the end of 2005. However, it remains unclear, without official confirmation from either driver or team, whether the agreement is to race or test. 12/09/04 (GMM) Nick Heidfeld may already be signed as Williams' second F1 racer for 2005, a German newspaper claimed. 'Bild' said the 27-year-old former Jordan and Sauber star - a German from Moenchengladbach - is 'stoutly' supported by German team engine partner BMW, even if Frank Williams would apparently prefer Antonio Pizzonia. The paper also said that if Heidfeld's drive is vetoed by Grove management, a 'provisional' contract guarantees him Pizzonia's vacated test spot. Nick is impressed with the scale of the Oxfordshire/Munich-collaboration: ''At the circuit,'' he said at Jerez, ''the greater number of experts (there are), the better the responsibility assignment.''
Kalkhoven and Forsythe buy Pi GroupUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. While we were asked not to report it as 'fact' when this rumor first went up Autosport now is reporting this as a done deal. Followed up their recent purchase of engine specialists Cosworth by agreeing a deal to buy electronics arm Pi Group from Ford. As part of Ford's decision to withdraw from Formula 1 at the end of the season, Pi Group was put up for sale alongside Cosworth and the Jaguar Racing team. With energy drinks giant Red Bull buying Jaguar, Kalkhoven and Forsythe were successful in their bid for Cosworth and have now followed that up with a deal for Pi Group. Kalkhoven said: “This was a logical step for us following our recent acquisition of Cosworth. Electronics are increasingly important in motorsport and in the automotive industry. Pi Group will play an important part in our business plans going forward." Pi Group has operations in Britain and the United States. The British bases are in Milton and in Cottenham near Cambridge, while in America there are bases in Indianapolis, Detroit and Charlotte. It employs 320 people. Pi Research designs and manufactures electronics and software for use in motorsport while Pi Technology is a world leader in automotive electronic systems development. 12/13/04 AutoRacing1.com has learned that in addition to buying Cosworth, Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe are close to signing a deal to buy Pi Research from Ford as well. This will provide them another important element in their overall suite of offerings they can provide to Champ Car and well as any other engine manufacturer or race series that needs the data logging and analysis software and hardware technology they provide. Mark C.
F1 to expand to 22 races With the addition of Turkey in 2005 the F1 schedule has reached 19 races per year and it appears there will be more. Gerhard Gribkowsky, Chairman of the Board of F1 holding company SLEC has said that there are a lot of positive aspects to what has been achieved in F1 recently. The comments come with the banks clearly looking eventually to sell their shares in the sport. "The moves into China and Bahrain were without doubt right,” he added. “It would be desirable to also go to Russia (20) and India (21). With only two races in North America we are under-represented in comparison with the market (Mexico 22). Our aim is to guarantee the sport's long-term stability. At some point the time may come when we say, ‘okay, we are leaving again.'” When asked what time frame he believed the banks would try and get out of F1, he said: “From today's point of view, in three to five years. Not earlier.” [Editor's Note: Meanwhile the IRL is at 18 races per year with plans of expanding, NASCAR is at 38 races, but Champ Car will remain at just 16 races per year according to Kevin Kalkhoven.]
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